New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Vedanta to operate its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin to produce oxygen while specifying that only the O2 plant will allowed to function, and that the order was passed in view of the national need for oxygen.

Passing the order, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde clarified that "allowing Vedanta to operate its oxygen plant would not create any equity in favour of company."

Allowing production of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients, the top court asked the Tamin Nadu government to form a panel to monitor activities at the Vedanta's Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin, closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns.

"Vedanta shall not be allowed to enter, operate copper smelting plant under garb of this order. There should be no political bickering over generation of oxygen by Vedanta, it's a national crisis," the CJI-led bench clearly specified. 

Last week, the Supreme Court questioned the state government as to why it cannot take over Vedanta's Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin. “We are not interested that Vedanta or A, B or C runs it. We are interested that oxygen should be produced,” the bench said.

“Somebody should say something concrete because people are dying due to lack of oxygen,” said the bench, also comprising Justices L N Rao and S R Bhat.

The apex court was hearing Vedanta's plea seeking opening of its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin on the ground that it would produce thousand tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients.

The top court had earlier refused to accord early hearing to the plea related to mining major Vedanta's Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu which is closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns.

The apex court on December 2 last year had rejected the interim plea of Vedanta Ltd that it be permitted to inspect its Sterlite copper plant and to operate it for a month to assess the pollution level.

Vedanta had sought handing over of the plant for three months saying it requires two months to start the unit and the company should be allowed to run it for four weeks to ascertain whether its polluting or not.

In August last year, Vedanta had moved the apex court challenging the Madras High Court order refusing to allow reopening of the Tuticorin plant.

The high court had upheld the orders of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) directing closure of the unit in May 2018.

Vedanta had approached the high court in February 2019, seeking to reopen Sterlite plant which was closed following a May 23, 2018 order issued by the TNPCB in the backdrop of violent protests against the unit which left 13 people dead in police firing on May 21 and 22.

It had filed the petition in the high court as suggested by the Supreme Court, which had on February 18, 2019 set aside the National Green Tribunal order that allowed opening of Sterlite plant.

(With inputs from agencies)

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta