Indian police officials charge towards protestors in the southern Indian city of Tuticorin some 600 kilometres (375 miles) south of Chennai on May 22, 2018, during a protest rally held to demand the closure of a copper factory due to pollution concerns. 

FILE  / AFP PHOTO / ARUN SANKAR
Indian police officials charge towards protestors in the southern Indian city of Tuticorin some 600 kilometres (375 miles) south of Chennai on May 22, 2018, during a protest rally held to demand the closure of a copper factory due to pollution concerns. FILE / AFP PHOTO / ARUN SANKAR

In a new twist to the Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, Vedanta has appealed to the Supreme Court to allow this unit to reopen and supply oxygen to the country. The company is promising to provide oxygen free of cost for COVID-19 patients in the country.

Vedanta’s application was heard by CJI SA Bobde and representing the company in the court was Harish Salve. At present, Supreme Court takes suo motu cognizance of COVID 19 issues. CJI said, "The suo motu matter will be kept for tomorrow (April 23)."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated that the centre is augmenting oxygen from whichever source possible. Thus, he added, Vedanta wants to make its plant operational, but let the company only make it operational to manufacture oxygen for health purposes.

In addition, Salve claimed that the company can start providing oxygen in the next five to six days if granted permission today.

Salve stated, “Vedanta seeking to carry some repair work and restart oxygen plant for copper unit and that unit can manufacture thousand tonnes of oxygen.”

Meanwhile, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, said, "There is trust deficit in the state of Tamil Nadu." He added the plea of this case be heard next week.

Bobde added that he wants to keep the power to declare lockdown with states and should not be a judicial decision. He added that the senior advocate Harish Salve will act as the amicus curiae. "We want to see a national plan on this issue. It will be served on Centre and Salve," CJI stated.

The company in 2020 had approached the apex court seeking permission to inspect its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. But this plea was dismissed by the Supreme Court. This plant is closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns.

Other than the court, Vedanta has also approached Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister, K Palaniswami seeking support to run Sterlite Copper’s oxygen plan.

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