ILNS: The petition of Vedanta Limited, urging for reopening of its Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin, which was shut down over environmental reasons, came up before the Supreme Court on Friday.
Vedanta had appealed for the reopening of its plant saying it has the ability to produce oxygen. The Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, made it clear that it had no problem if the Tamil Nadu government takes over the plant, but it would be required to produce the oxygen that it can during these trying times, when the whole country is gasping for oxygen.
Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the state, said: “There is a law and order situation. They are finding it extremely difficult to operate.”
The CJI said: “Yesterday you didn’t tell us about this.”
Vaidyanathan tried to reply: “The state bonafidely (sic) tried…”
The CJI asked: “Can you tell this on oath?”
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves said: “Respondent no. 10 are people who are severely affected families, some have died, some have cancer.”
The CJI said: “We have no problem if TN takes over the plant.”
Gonsalves reported: “They (the state government) have taken over the plant.”
The CJI asked: “Then why are they not generating (producing oxygen)?”
Gonsalves said: “I’ll tell you. Because they have a lot of oxygen they have in surplus that is why they don’t need to.”
SG Tushar Mehta said: “The country is in bad need of oxygen; it is not that every state produces and uses; it is the Centre who allocates. Law and order can never be problem. Why are we not using, where every tonne matters?”
The CJI said: “It is the directive principle of the Constitution, let Tamil Nadu produce. When people are dying, the state government says we will not open the plant. What is the reason for that? Just because of Vedanta, they will not open the plant and let the people die? We have never heard of such an argument from a state government.”
Vaidyanathan said: “Milord may keep it for 2 pm or tomorrow. We are doing the best we can. The Central government has the power to run (the plant).”
The CJI said: “All that we are trying to say is that we are not concerned about who produces it, whether it is Vedanta or A or B. We are concerned about the oxygen. It should be produced.”
The state will file its affidavit on the next date of hearing, which is Monday, April 26.