COVID-19: Defence Minister looking into issue of Army's help to set up hospitals in Delhi : HC told

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New Delhi, May 3 (PTI) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh himself is looking into the issue of pressing the service of Army to help set up hospitals with oxygenated and ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients in the national capital, a law officer on Monday told the Delhi High Court which dubbed the second wave of coronavirus as a 'national calamity'.

The high court also said a “good case” was made out to seek the Army’s help in the national capital which has been grappling with several issues arising out of the spread of coronavirus.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli during the hearing had asked Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma to seek instructions on the issue of a letter written by Delhi Government to the Defence Minister seeking Army's help to set up COVID hospitals.

Later, the law officer told the bench that an officer was in contact with the Defence Minister and they will let the court and amicus curiae know the details once they receive it.

“The matter is now being looked into by the Defence Minister himself,” Sharma said.

The high court was deliberating on the communication sent by Delhi government to the Union Defence Minister requesting help of the Army to set up hospitals here with oxygenated and ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients as well as supply cryogenic tankers for oxygen.

The high court directed the Centre to take instructions on the communication saying 'there is a good case made out for the Army. It is a national calamity, no doubt about it.” The bench was informed by the Delhi government counsel that the Delhi Deputy Chief Minister has written a letter to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday with its request for Army’s help and it will take a day or two to fructify.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, has urged the Centre that it would be grateful if armed forces could run medical facilities for COVID-19 patients with 10,000 beds and also requested the armed forces to provide cryogenic tankers for oxygen supply to the national capital.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, sought time to get instructions and to inform the court.

The bench said, “We direct the Centre to report instructions on the communication by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister to the Defence Minister.” The bench, which held an over four-hour long hearing on issues including oxygen crisis and other COVID-19 related issues that Delhi is grappling with, in the later part of the proceedings against asked Sharma as to what instructions he has got on the issue.

He responded saying an officer is in contact with the Defence Minister who is looking into the matter himself.

Following a suggestion by senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, the court had earlier asked the Delhi government to examine the issue for taking services of armed forces in the given situation as they can set up field hospitals which will help a large number of COVID-19 patients in the national capital and take appropriate steps.

The bench had directed the state government to seek the help of the armed forces in getting oxygen and setting up facilities.

A PIL was also taken up for hearing on behalf of petitioner Manisha Gupta, through senior advocates Abhinav Vasisht and Sacchin Puri and lawyer Praveen K Sharma, seeking to hand over management of oxygen supplies to the armed forces for ensuring uninterrupted supply to the hospitals and the COVID-19 facility during the pandemic.

The counsel said when national prestige was involved during the Common Wealth Games in Delhi and a bridge had fallen, the state government had called for Army.

Now so many lives are involved, so why the Army can't be called now, he added.

On Vasisht’s submission that “Army is really really required today”, the bench said, “yes it is. There is no doubt about it.” PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS