Centre will honour SC directions on supply of deficit oxygen to Delhi: HC told

New Delhi, May 3 (PTI) The Centre Monday assured the Delhi High Court that it will honour the directions of the Supreme Court to ensure the deficit in oxygen supply to the national capital is rectified before the midnight, to the best of its ability.

The Centre’s submission came following the court’s query, “what about oxygen as per the Supreme Court’s directions.” A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli were informed by the Centre that six additional containers are coming to Delhi and each of them is carrying 20 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.

Besides, a train carrying medical oxygen and some more tankers will be reaching Delhi tonight, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma told the bench which also asked the Centre to inform it about the status of imported oxygen concentrators which are pending customs clearance.

“People should not lose lives for this that there are resources but they are pending clearance. It should be released so that it can be used,” the bench observed.

While the Delhi government’s demand for medical oxygen has been 700 metric tonnes (MT) as per current requirement, the Centre had allocated 490 MT to it and raised it to 590 MT on Saturday.

The high court had earlier noted that not for a single day, Delhi has received its allocated 490 MT of oxygen supply.

The bench also asked by the Centre and Delhi government to place their plans on record for augmentation to meet the infrastructural demands.

During the hearing, the ASG said now that the apex court has laid down the directions and the parties are before the Supreme Court, let it deal with the matter.

He said it should not be done as if the high court is the executing court of the Supreme Court.

However, the high court bench said, “you cannot tell us that the Supreme Court has passed the order so the Supreme Court alone will deal with it. We all are duty bound to take steps,” and added that the apex court has not dealt with the aspect of availability of beds in Delhi hospitals which it was looking into.

Sharma responded, “I am not saying that. I am only saying those aspects not touched by the Supreme Court can be taken here.” The high court, which held an over four-hour long hearing on issues including oxygen crisis and other COVID-19 related issues that Delhi is grappling with, asked the Centre’s counsel to give data of these oxygen concentrators as of 12 PM on Monday.

Central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan said officers are collating the data and it will be done in few hours and that they will inform the amicus curiae about it.

He also informed the bench that there is an order of the government that everything related to COVID-19 needs to be cleared by the customs department in three hours and a joint secretary level officer has been appointed as the nodal officer to look into the issues.

The issue of oxygen concentrators being stuck for customs clearance was raised by senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal who said these equipments could be first released to the hospitals then individuals and thereafter to the distributors with an undertaking that they shall not indulge in black marketing.

During the marathon hearing, the high court was also informed by an oxygen refiller that when its tanker went to supply the gas to Batra Hospital, he was held up by the staff there and was forced to deliver more quantity.

The court took note of the issue and warned the executive director of the hospital, who was present in the hearing, that such anarchic conduct shall not be repeated in future as it the oxygen was meant to be supplied to other hospitals also.

The hospital’s executive director submitted that he was not aware of this incident and that he never approved of such conduct assured the court that it will not happen again.

The court said once oxygen allocation is made, all the hospitals and nursing homes are bound to adhere to it. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS