HC asks Centre, AAP govt to coordinate to provide oxygen in Delhi hospitals treating COVID-19 patients

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New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Saturday asked the Centre and the Delhi government to coordinate on the issue of making available medical oxygen to hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, observing that citizens cannot be left to die.

The court made it clear that the efforts which Delhi government has to make in this regard cannot be trivialised and they should not leave it entirely to the central government.

'The Delhi government should, therefore, make all out efforts for procurement of cryogenic tankers from whatever source they can be made available, and look for all possible avenues. As aforesaid, the sub-Group in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) shall also help in this regard, and we expect the officers of both the governments to interact and co-ordinate in this regard,' a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.

The bench, which conducted a special hearing that lasted three hours on the issue of escalating oxygen crisis in various hospitals in Delhi, observed, the citizens of Delhi 'cannot be allowed to die like this because enough oxygen is not coming'.

During the hearing earlier in the day, a senior central government officer submitted that the Delhi government was expecting the Centre to serve everything on platter and the state's officers will have to do some work on their own, like other states are doing.

The high court also directed all the suppliers and re-fillers of oxygen to give complete details to the AAP government about the oxygen supplied by them to various hospitals treating COVID-19 patients here, observing that there has to be 'transparency' on this aspect.

It said the information to be furnished by the suppliers to the nodal officer of Delhi shall include how much oxygen was supplied to each of the hospitals and when.

'We direct all suppliers, who supply oxygen to Delhi, to provide complete details to the nodal officer about quantity of oxygen supplied to each hospital and the timing,' the bench said.

The direction was passed as senior advocate Rahul Mehra and lawyer Satyakam, representing the Delhi government, contended that the suppliers were not providing them the details of oxygen supplied to Delhi hospitals.

The high court also directed the Delhi government to communication to all the hospitals and nursing homes here the details of its new team -- comprising 10 IAS and 28 DANIPS officers -- constituted for monitoring the oxygen distribution in the national capital.

The court was conducting an urgent hearing on a petition filed by Maharaja Agrasen Hospital over shortage of oxygen for treating seriously-ill COVID patients. The issue was joined by Jaipur Golden Hospital, Batra Hospital and Saroj Super Speciality Hospital which were also running out of oxygen.

During the hearing, the court also asked the Centre when the 480 metric tonne (MT) of oxygen per day allocated for Delhi would see the light of the day.

'You (Centre) had assured us (on April 21) that 480 MT per day will reach Delhi. Tell us when will it come? We want a definitive date. The 480 MT per day is still to see the light of the day,' the bench said The query came after the Delhi government said it was getting only 380 MT oxygen per day over the past few days and it received only around 300 MT on Friday.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, said one of the reasons for the shortage in supply was due to the Delhi government not providing cryogenic tankers for picking up liquid oxygen.

The court was informed that so far as Durgapur plant is concerned, empty cryogenic tanks have been airlifted and are in the process of being filled with liquid oxygen.

'We have also been informed that the railway is waiting in readiness to transport the said tanks to Delhi as soon as the same is loaded. So far as, Rourkela and Kalinganagar plants are concerned, we have been informed by Sumita Dawra and Piyush Goyal (senior officers of central government) that the Delhi government has not made arrangements for cryogenic tanks for transporting the liquid oxygen from these plants,' the bench said.

The hearing witnessed heated arguments between Mehta and Mehra on this issue.

While Mehra told the court that it was not an industrial state and therefore, did not have access to such tankers, the solicitor general said various states are making arrangements for converting existing tankers for storage of oxygen or are procuring the same from other sources and the Delhi government too should make an endeavour in that direction.

The court questioned the Delhi government officers as to what endeavours they have made to secure tankers to get the supply of oxygen allocated to it by the Centre.

The Centre's counsel submitted that the central government would look into the issue, so that a reasonable arrangement is worked out for making tanks available for transportation of liquid oxygen from all the three plants -- Durgapur, Rourkela and Kalinganagar, in coordination with the Delhi government.

The bench said in case tankers are in shortage, the Centre shall use them on rotation basis by doing rationing and that both the Central and Delhi governments should work together on this issue. PTI SKV HMP ZMN