Vedanta can run oxygen unit at Sterlite plant on 'standalone' basis, rules Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Vedanta Industries to run its oxygen production unit at the Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi on a "standalone" basis, a day after the Tamil Nadu government gave permission for the plant to be reopened for four months for medical oxygen production for the treatment of patients of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), news agency ANI reported.
"The plant shall be operated and only produce oxygen and used for no other purpose," said Justice DY Chandrachud while pronouncing the order on Tuesday, according to ANI. Senior lawyer Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, told Justice Chandrachud that the unit can begin producing oxygen in around 10 days.
"There is a national calamity," the judge further said, referring to the shortage of medical oxygen reported from hospitals across the country which has led to concerns over treatment of Covid-19 patients, especially those in serious condition, amid a rapid and alarming surge in daily new cases of the viral disease.
On Monday, hours after the Tamil Nadu government's decision, Vedanta opposed the top court's suggestion from last week to let the state government operate the oxygen production unit at the plant, saying, "it is just beyond the competency and financial ability of the government to run this oxygen plant." The government's order, on its part, only mentioned that a government committee, including members of the civil society, will be set up to oversee the functioning of the plant.
It was in the context of the shortage of medical oxygen that Vedanta, last week, approached the Supreme Court for permission to operate its oxygen production unit at the Sterlite plant, which was shut down in May 2018 after 13 people were killed in police firing while protesting against the plant. The Madras high court, last year, dismissed Vedanta's appeal to reopen the plant. On January 22 this year, the Supreme Court also turned down its petition to open the oxygen unit on a trial basis.