HC questions Centre’s oxygen allocation order on supply from WB, Odisha to Delhi

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New Delhi, April 28 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Wednesday questioned the Centre's oxygen allocation order which allows the national capital to receive the life-saving gas from three far-off plants in West Bengal and Odisha thereby consuming a lot of time in transportation.

The high court pointed out that Delhi has not been supplied with the complete allocated quantity of medical oxygen, that is, 490 metric tonnes per day for treating COVID-19 patients even for a single day and observed that actions are required to be taken on SOS basis.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, which heard the matter for four hours, observed that it three of the plants are situated in West Bengal and Odisha at a distance of 1300-1500 km and asked senior advocate Raj Shekhar Rao, who was appointed amicus curiae, to study the national allocation order and give suggestions on optimal usage of tankers and minimization of turn-around time.

Rao was asked to communicate the suggestions to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who had initially opposed the idea of amicus looking into the national allocation plan.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said the issue was raised at the central war room.

When the central government officer concerned denied it, Mehra said they would again do it, this time the communication would be in writing.

'People will keep dying and you will keep sitting. So many lives we are losing because of your inaction. What about the promise of 480-490 Metric Tonnes of oxygen per day. How many states are facing the kind of shortage Delhi is facing,' the bench told the central government officer.

The bench said now the Delhi government has even arranged the tankers and what was the point of allocating certain quantity of oxygen to Delhi when it was not being supplied.

'It actually pains my heart. I don't know what to say now. At least take empty tankers back by air,' Justice Palli said.

The bench further said, 'You have to do it on SOS basis. You can't say one round of oxygen for Delhi will take 5 days. You can airlift empty tankers. If your turn around time is five days, we must say your allocation is bad.' To this, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said whatever is humanly possible is being done and there is a complete coordinated effort in this regard.

During the hearing, Mehta assured the bench that the government will reapply minds on mapping and said if the amicus looks at it, it will be counter-productive.

To this, the bench said let the amicus come with suggestions and the Centre shall look into the logistic problems relating to transporting oxygen from the far away plants to Delhi.

The court asked the Centre to file its response in this regard by April 30.

When the court observed that reasons should be given by the officials in case they reject the suggestions made by the amicus, Mehta submitted that such a direction would not be feasible.

'It is a dynamic exercise. Officers should not be spending time on recording reasons. That may not be necessary,' he said. PTI SKV ZMN