Copper manufacturer Vedanta Ltd has moved an urgent application before the Supreme Court seeking permission to re-open its plant in Tamil Nadu - which has been closed for violations of environmental laws - saying that it wanted to help the country with free production of medical oxygen for COVID patients.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India SA Bobde today.
The Central Government supported the request of Vedanta. Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said that the country is in dire need of oxygen.
"Let Vedanta make it operational only to manufacture oxygen for health purposes", the SG said.
Salve said that if permission is granted, Vedanta will be able to start the production of oxygen within 5-6 days, which will help saving lives of many people.
Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Government, said that he received the application only today morning and requested time till next week.
He also pointed out that the plant was shut down for violating environmental norms and that there was a lot of trust deficit with respect to the company among the people in Tamil Nadu.
The CJI said that he was not appreciating the stand of the Tamil Nadu Government if it was obstructing the plea of the company for oxygen production.
"Human lives are more important at this moment than environmental considerations", the Solicitor General said.
The CJI said that the application will be listed tomorrow for hearing.
In December last year, the Supreme Court(bench led by Justice RF Nariman) had rejected the interim plea made by the Vedanta for allowing it to re-open the plan. A second application made by the company with the same demand was also rejected by the Supreme Court in January this year.
The company had moved the top court challenging the Madras High Court verdict of August 2020 that dismissed Vedanta's writ petition to reopen its copper smelter and upheld the state government's decision to shut it down.