The Delhi High Court on Thursday rejected the Centre’s submission that the current oxygen supply to the national capital was sufficient and asked it to respond on Delhi government’s allegation that other states were getting more oxygen or almost equivalent to what they had demanded. The existing oxygen demand of Delhi is 704 metric tonnes (MTs) as against the present allocation of 490 MTs.
“That (supply being sufficient) may not be correct at all. That we cannot accept. It is people close to us who are not getting beds and oxygen. You are aware about it. We have heard about Haryana people dying, we have heard people in Meerut dying because of oxygen not being available and we have heard about Delhi. We are getting so many calls for arranging beds and oxygen,” the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
On Delhi government’s allegation, the court said “We make it clear that by no means are we interested in securing for Delhi more than what’s required, and that too at a cost of any other state or Union Territory. However, if submissions of Delhi or Amicus were to be accepted, it would appear the central government needs to explain this, for which we are granting time. It goes without saying the aforesaid reflect arguments advanced by amicus and (Mr Rahul Mehra) Delhi.”
The court said it is adopting a pan-India view and not suggesting that people in other states should suffer. “If as a matter of fact it is being put to you that the demand of a particular state was X and you have given them X + Y, then why have you not given that Y to Delhi when the demand of Delhi is more,” said the court, adding it was not a recording a finding at present but wants to take a view on the issue.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the Centre is aware of the current situation and the supply of oxygen has been augmented from whatever source possible and the same is sufficient to cater to today’s needs. Mehta also said the matter was being politicised by Delhi and asked the court to not look at all-India allocation.
“Suppose there is a huge, unprecedented surge tomorrow, which nobody can anticipate… I do not want to create panic… then the situation would be different. The Delhi government did demand 700 MT. For me, a Delhi citizen is as dear and important as a Kerala citizen. They did demand 700. Allocation is 480-490, the actual quantity coming to Delhi 335-340 which according to our assessment is sufficient,” he submitted before the court.
However, the court said the number of infections in Delhi are increasing and questioned the Centre over failing to revise the previous oxygen allocation. The court also took exception to Mehta’s statement that oxygen can be taken from Madhya Pradesh and given to Delhi at the “cost of people’s lives” if the court desires.
“Please do not project it like that. Don’t project it as if we are wanting something and taking away… We don’t appreciate this. We are going by facts and figures. Let’s not get emotional about it. You have to beat this head on. You cannot duck. When the demand was 445, how do you allocate 540 and if the demand is 1500, how do you allocate 1616,” asked the court, while referring to demand and allocation of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The Delhi government earlier argued that the central government has “miserably failed the country” and sought higher oxygen allocation. “490 MT is not what we asked for. Our requirement is 790 MTs. Everytime my lords have been stopped from passing direction. Some responsibility must be fixed on the central government. Paper orders are being passed. We have been put in dock but not a single response has come from the center. Oxygen has to come and it has to be delivered. I’m urging please do not allow them to shift goalposts. We face it, apologize, we act but what has centre done except sermons. Lives can be lost and their allocation can continue.. the central government must answer. I didn’t raise the pitch for eight days but I am said there is apathy for citizen of Delhi,” Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra told the court, adding the state would require 976 MTs of medical if it has to augment the bed capacity to deal with the fact that pandemic may peak by May 15.