New Delhi, Apr 22 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today agreed to hear an urgent application moved by Vedanta Limited, allowing permission to open its Tuticorin plant, stating that it will produce 1000 tonnes of oxygen everyday and supply it free of cost to patients across the country, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench of Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat will hear the plea tomorrow.
CJI Bobde mentioned that in order to address other emerging issues due to increase in COVID-19 cases, the Bench is taking suo motu cognisance regarding the Supply of Oxygen, Supply of Essential Drug, the method and manner of vaccination and the power to put lockdown. The Bench also opined that power to lockdown remains with the state government, not with the Judiciary.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve appeared for the non-ferrous metal and mining company. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the country is in dire need of oxygen. Vedanta want to make its plant operational, but it should be allowed operations to produce only oxygen for health purposes.
The Supreme Court had earlier refused the mining giant’s plea for immediate reopening of Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin. Vedanta had approached the apex court, challenging the Madras High Court decision, rejecting its request to reopen the Sterlite copper plant.
In 2018, the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had shut down the plant, citing violations of environmental laws. Later, the plant had turned into a protest site. The protest took a violent turn on its 100th day, when police opened fire on the protesters, leading to several civilian casualties.
Earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had opposed the plea after the TNPCB said the plant was a consistent polluter. The government had submitted in his report that the interim arrangement to reopen the plant cannot be given, particularly since the High Court had upheld the TNPCB order for closing the plant.
Tuticorin villagers had opposed the order of reopening of Sterlite plant, even on a trial basis. The villagers had said the drinking water was poisoned and people had contracted cancer. They said even the High Court ruled such a plant can’t be set up in a residential zone. They have no regard for law, environment. They pointed out that the TNPCB didn’t act in all these years.
Earlier in February 2019, the Supreme Court had set aside the National Green Tribunal order, allowing the reopening of Sterlite plant, on the ground that NGT did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the case. However, Vedanta was allowed to move the High Court against the orders. ILNS/KR/SNG/RJ