People keep dying, you will not do anything: Delhi HC to Centre

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned the Centre over its failure to make available the complete allocated supply of 480 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to Delhi hospitals, and ordered an amicus curiae to study allocation orders to provide suggestions for optimising tanker usage and minimising turnaround time. The state has been unable to receive a regular supply from three plants located in Odisha and West Bengal since the day of allocation.

“What has happened to the promised 480-490 MT? Till today, it has not reached that figure. We were told about this a week ago… you keep saying we have not received it. People will keep dying and you will not do anything about it,” said a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, while hearing the issue of people getting treated at their homes not being able to get oxygen cylinders.

“We are still hovering around 400 and less than 400. You have not achieved 480-490 for a single day. That is the situation,” the court said.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta told the court that Delhi is getting 390 MTs from nearby plants out of the 480 MTs of allocation. “The rest is not possible, keeping the larger national picture in mind,” Mehta said, adding that a similar issue is being raised in different High Courts and opposing the court’s order regarding study of the national plan by the amicus. He said suggestions can be given to him directly.

The court said it had also asked the Centre to look at it earlier. “For the last one week, Delhi is not getting the allocated supply, whatever be the reason. The government’s repeated stand is that if we have a huge building of liquid oxygen in the eastern part, then it should come. Why is it not coming? People are dying. People are troubled,” the court told Mehta.

It later asked the amicus, Senior Advocate Rajshekar Rao, to study the allocation plan and provide suggestions to Mehta. “Independent of that as well, we hope and expect the central government shall look at the logistic problem being faced in transportation of oxygen from said plants to Delhi,” it added. The court also asked the Centre to give a response on Friday.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, earlier told the court that for the past seven days, almost 97-98 percent of oxygen was being allocated to hospitals, but there is a lack of sufficient supply to Delhi. He told the court that industrialists known to him in Rajasthan and Punjab are ready to supply surplus oxygen cylinders to Delhi but are unable to do so because of restrictions imposed by the authorities there. Mehra submitted that the central government needs to interfere in the matter.

However, the Centre told the court that the matter has not been raised with it. “All governments are facing the same situation. The gas production is mostly in the eastern side, and other parts are facing huge shortages because of movement, time etc,” said Additional Secretary, MHA, Piyush Goyal.

The court said the allocation plan is “bad”, with hospitals telling it every other day that their patients are dying.

“We have no doubt the Central government has every good intention, but if it is not working, you have to do something which is possible,” said the court, adding that it cannot ask the Centre to reallocate, but looking at the working of the allocation “we can say that it is not an exercise of mind”.

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