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Tuesday,02-March-2021

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Plant closure: SC declines Vedanta’s plea for early hearing of appeal

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Supreme-Court

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain a plea by Vedanta seeking early hearing on its appeal filed against the Madras High Court order, which declined to allow the reopening of its Tuticorin plant.

As the Tamil Nadu government had filed a special leave petition in the top court for expunging certain remarks in the Madras High Court order, a bench headed by Justice R. F. Nariman and comprising Justices Navin Sinha and K. M. Joseph admitted it and tagged it with the main matter.

In the meanwhile, during the hearing, counsel appearing for Vedanta requested the top court for an early hearing on its appeal against the Madras High Court order but the bench declined to entertain this plea.

The mining major had moved the top court in August against the High Court order declining to allow the reopening of the Tuticorin plant as it had upheld the orders of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) which directed the closure of the plant in May 2018.

On December 2, the Supreme Court had declined to entertain an interim plea by Vedanta Ltd seeking permission to inspect and operate Sterlite Copper unit at Tuticorin for four weeks to assess the pollution level.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for the company, had submitted that Vedanta is producing 36 per cent of the copper demand of the country and it is a case of mala fide closure of the plant. Vedanta sought handing over of the plant for three months, where two months would be needed to start the unit, and in order to find out whether the plant is polluting, the company should be allowed to run it for four weeks.

The Tami Nadu government objected to these submissions and submitted before the top court that the plant has been polluting consistently. But, Singhvi contended the court should allow the company to run the plant, which would help in ascertain whether the plant is polluting beyond the acceptable limit.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing some villagers in the vicinity of the plant, had submitted the unit should not be allowed to operate, as it is contaminating the water and people are suffering from diseases like cancer.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the bench said: “Having heard Abhishek Manu Singhvi, C.S. Vaidyanathan, K.V. Viswanathan and Colin Gonsalves, all senior advocates, for some time, we are of the view that the relief(s) in this IA cannot be granted. Accordingly, this IA is dismissed.”

However, the top court said the main matter, the appeal against the High Court order, can come up for hearing after physical hearing resumes in the top court.

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Petrol and diesel prices unchanged for 3rd straight day

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The rise in the prices of petrol and diesel has paused for the last three days as oil marketing companies (OMCs) have decided to wait and watch the developments on global oil market before finalising their India retail strategy.

The OMCs kept the pump price of petrol and diesel unchanged on Tuesday. With this, petrol continues to be priced at Rs 91.17 a litre and diesel Rs 81.47 a litre in the national capital.

Across the country as well, petrol and diesel prices remain unchanged.

Sources in OMCs said that price pause on Tuesday followed subdued movement in product price in global markets. The crude oil, which has been on fire for the last couple of weeks, has also shown some downward movement lately, staying at less than $63 a barrel now.

Petrol and diesel prices have been rising continuously since February 9. In the 14 increases since then, prices have gone up by Rs 4.22 per litre for petrol while diesel rate has risen by Rs 4.34 a litre in Delhi.

The increase in the previous weeks has taken petrol past the historic high levels of Rs 100 a litre in several cities across the country.

In Mumbai, petrol prices is just Rs 2.4 per litre short (Rs 97.57 a litre) of touching the three-figure mark of Rs 100 per litre for the very first time ever. Diesel prices in the city are closing on Rs 90 a litre (Rs 88.60 a litre).

In all the other metros, petrol is over Rs 90 a litre-mark, while diesel is well over Rs 80 a litre. Premium petrol had crossed Rs 100 per litre mark in several cities in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra a few days back.

Since fuel prices are benchmarked to a 15-day rolling average of global refined products’ prices and dollar exchange rate, pump prices can be expected to remain northbound over the next few days even if crude price stabilises.

Petrol and diesel prices have increased 26 times in 2021 with the two auto fuels increasing by Rs 7.46 and Rs 7.60 per litre, respectively, so far this year.

Oil company executives said that petrol and diesel prices may increase further in the coming days as retail prices may have to be balanced in line with global developments to prevent the OMCs from making a loss on sale of auto fuels.

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Government-NUSI ink MoUs for Rs 225 Cr benefits to seafarers

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In a third major achievement in 3 months, the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) signed six memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the Centre to extend various benefits worth Rs 225-crore to the 4,00,000 Indian seafarers across all categories, a top unionist said here on Tuesday.

The MoUs were signed between NUSI General Secretary Abdulgani Y. Serang and Director-General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar ahead of the crucial Maritime India Summit (MIS) starting Tuesday, and as part of the NUSI’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

“For the first time in Indian maritime history, the six MoUs have been signed for the welfare, training, medical, education and other requirements of the sea-farers,” Serang told IANS.

The scope of the MoUs includes: Financial assistance for Covid-19 vaccination to all seafarers, sponsorship to seafarers or their families to study at the Indian Chapter, World Maritime University in Sweden, Training and Skill Enhancement to seafarers free of cost.

Other important areas covered are: Medical and education assistance to seafarers and their families, and also educational help to kin of retired/deceased seafarers, said NUSI Spokesperson Sunil Nair.

The NUSI claimed that it was their third major milestone for the seafarers in the past three months at the height of the pandemic when the Indian and global maritime industry suffered hugely.

In December, the NUSI and FSUI clinched an agreement with Indian National Shipowners Association (INSA) for a hefty 40 per cent wage hike with retrospective effect to all seafarers.

In January, the government agreed to extend the provident fund, gratuity, and pension to all ranks of seafarers serving on both Indian or foreign flag ships, after years of struggle by NUSI.

However, with the efforts of Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the demands have been accepted which will go a long way to ensure the financial, medical and academic well-being of the seafarers and their families after they retire, the NUSI leaders said.

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Shipping Corp shares up 15% as government gets multiple EoIs

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Shares of Shipping Corporation of India Ltd surged over 15 per cent on Tuesday as its disinvestment process gathered momentum with the government receiving multiple Expressions of Interest (EoI) for the privatisation of the company.

Around 12 p.m., its shares on the BSE were trading at Rs 120.15, higher by Rs 16.45 or 15.86 per cent from its previous close.

Taking to Twitter, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, the Secretary for Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) on Monday said: “Multiple Expressions of Interest have been received for privatisation of Shipping Corporation of India Limited. The transaction will now move to the second stage.”

The Union government proposes to sell its entire shareholding of 63.75 per cent in the listed entity to a buyer that will take over the company with full management control.

The government expects to complete the privatisation in the coming financial year. Presenting the Union Budget for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the announced disinvestment processes will be completed during the upcoming fiscal.

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