The Centre on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court on the Delhi High Court’s contempt warning to it on the availability of oxygen in light of the Covid-19 crisis. During the hearing, the apex court asked the government how it planned to meet Delhi’s oxygen demand and said that it should look to Mumbai as BMC had done a good job of handing the Covid situation.
The apex court also gave the Centre a 10:30 am deadline for Thursday over the oxygen crisis. The court said, ” In a good-faith measure to submit a tabulated plan before this court, we allow Centre to submit a plan by 10.30 am tomorrow.”
The Supreme Court advised authorities to look at the BMC model to combat the Covid crisis in Delhi.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising MR Shah heard the matter. Solicitor General Tushar Mehra represented the Union government, while senior advocate Rahul Mehra appeared on behalf of GNCTD. Mehta told the Supreme Court, “The Centre and Delhi government are both making best efforts. This is not adversarial. Putting officers in jail will not ensure oxygen supply. The Centre is preparing a module for supplying oxygen to various states.”
Justice Chandrachud told the Centre, “Calculating oxygen demands based on per bed is not scientific.” It asked the Centre to “try and extrapolate BMC model for Delhi”.
The court said that till an audit was not done, actual procurement needed to be focused on in Delhi. “Centre needs to inch closer to 700 MT for Delhi, the present supply of about 550 mt does not work.”
The court asked the Centre to inform by Wednesday midnight on how much oxygen they shall supply to the national capital. While Mehta told the court that the Centre had a formula to calculate oxygen demands and elaborated on it, the court reminded the government that needs the situation was dynamic in different parts of the country and the demand may vary. Not prudent to have a static formula.
The court told the Centre, “Please tell us that in the next few days how will you meet the demand of Delhi.” The apex court also appreciated the BMC model of combating Covid-19. The Centre agreed, saying, “The BMC has done a commendable job.”
The court asked the Centre, “Why are the orders of supply of oxygen to Delhi not been complied with?” To which, Mehta said, “Demand for oxygen has steeply gone up. We are diverting oxygen from all possible sources. Equitable distribution of oxygen is being ensured.”
Justice Chandrachud reiterated, “Effort should be to comply, we agree that putting officers in jail would not help the situation.”
The Delhi High Court had directed the Centre to show cause as to why contempt not be initiated against it for failing to comply with the order on the supply of oxygen to the national capital for treating Covid-19 patients.
The Delhi High Court had asked state and centre officials to remain present in court for contempt proceedings since oxygen supply, as per Supreme Court order, was not met with.
On Tuesday a Delhi High Court bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli rejected the Centre's submission that Delhi was not entitled to 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen in light of existing medical infrastructure.
"We see grim reality every day of people not able to secure oxygen or ICU beds in hospitals which have reduced beds due to gas shortage,” it said. The high court directed two senior central government officers to be present before it on Wednesday to respond to the notice.