Supreme Court to hear on Friday Vedanta offer of free oxygen supply, dismisses TN’s objections

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on April 23, 2021

The Vedanta group had approached the SC to outline its offer of support in view of the ongoing legal proceedings

The Supreme Court will hear on Friday a plea filed by Vedanta for supplying oxygen from its closed copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, terming the Covid-19 situation a ‘national emergency.’

With medical oxygen in high demand due to the pandemic, the Vedanta group on Wednesday wrote separate letters to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan; Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Planiswami, and Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Rajiv Ranjan offering the supply. It has also approached the Supreme Court to outline its offer of support in view of the ongoing legal proceedings. Senior advocate Harish Salve appeared for Vedanta and said that the company will offer its entire capacity of 1,050 tonnes free of cost.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde was unimpressed with the objection of Tamil Nadu government which initially sought a hearing of Vedanta’s plea on Monday and opposed its opening on various grounds including that it has been rejected by the apex court earlier.

“We understand all this. We will ensure compliance of all environmental norms by the plant and its oxygen producing facility will be allowed to operate. We are on the oxygen plant,” the Bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, said when senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan appearing for Tamil Nadu objected to the plea of the company.

Protecting human life

“There is almost a national emergency, and you (Tamil Nadu) don’t put spokes in the solution. We will hear it (plea of Vedanta) tomorrow,” the Bench said in the hearing conducted through video conferencing.

“The country is in dire need of oxygen and the Centre is augmenting oxygen from whichever source. Vedanta wants to make its plant operational, but let Vedanta only make it operational to manufacture oxygen for health purposes,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said. “Between protecting the environment and protecting human life, we must lean in favour of protecting human life,” he said.

Salve sought urgent hearing of the plea and said, “people are dying on a daily basis and we can produce and supply oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients.”

Asked when the plant can start oxygen production, officials at Vedanta said it is too early to say without assessing the plant, which has been closed without maintenance. The Tamil Nadu government referred to records and said it will take the company two to four weeks start oxygen production

With inputs from PTI

Published on April 22, 2021

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