The Supreme Court today began hearing the Union government’s plea against a Delhi High Court order on oxygen availability in the national capital and the lower court’s threat to pursue contempt charges against officials for non-compliance.
The hearing began in the afternoon after Chief Justice NV Ramana asked the court registry to place the papers on the matter before a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud which includes Justice MR Shah.
“Between the Centre and State putting officers in jail or hauling them up for contempt, the people of Delhi won’t get oxygen,” the Supreme Court said.
The Centre informed the court that both the state and Union governments were “doing their best”.
“We are in the process of going to 700 metric tonnes of Oxygen…on May 4 we could reach 585 tonnes,” it said. Up to 590 tonnes of the vital gas were allotted to the Delhi government.
Justice Shah seemed to agree with the Centre. He said, “The Centre is doing its best…Otherwise what will happen? If you get oxygen from another state, that state will also suffer.”
The Centre tried to impress upon on the court that despite being in a pandemic, India was able to augment its oxygen capacity from 5,000 metric tonnes, including industrial oxygen, to 9,000 tonnes now available for medical purpose.
Now the question was how to allocate this to each state, the government said. For this, the court was told, a formula has been adopted. “We devised a formula with experts and it is applicable for the entire country…Based on this, Delhi was allocated 480 metric tonnes,” it said.
Justice Chandrachud, however, sought to know if such a formula could be universally applicable.
“We are not debunking this entire formula. But this is on assumption…and may not be applicable to all states,” Justice Chandrachud said. “Different states are peaking at different times. You cannot have a general assessment for the entire country.”
He said the court was not sure if this formula was scientific or only a rough one. “Of course, it is bona fide and we can look at this on May 10,” he said.
There was tremendous sense of anxiety among citizens and there is a need to publicise the allocation, so that both the citizens and hospitals know about it, the court said.
Referring to suppliers’, Justice Chandrachud said, “You may tell Delhi that so-and-so is the supplier, but does the supplier have the ability to supply…If one supplier is allocated to two states, he may not be able to supply to Delhi.”
“We had indicated creating a buffer stock. If this can be done in Mumbai, which is thickly populated, it can certainly be done in Delhi,”
The Union government today moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi High Court order on oxygen availability in the national capital and the lower court’s threat to pursue contempt charges against officials for non-compliance. The top court will her the Centre’s plea today.
Chief Justice India, NV Ramana, asked the court registry to place the papers on the matter before Justice Chandrachud’s bench for hearing.
The Union government’s failure to implement a Delhi High Court order on immediate supply of the full quota of oxygen to Delhi “by whatever means” evoked the judges’ wrath yesterday. It asked the government to explain why a contempt case should not be initiated against it.
“Enough is enough. We will not take a ‘no’ regarding oxygen supply. There is no way that you will not supply 700 metric tonne oxygen immediately. We will not hear anything except compliance,” the Delhi High Court had said yesterday.
Despite the High Court’s repeated urging, the Centre has remained firm on its stance that the Arvind Kejriwal government had been allocated oxygen according to a calculation that applies to all states. The Delhi administration’s mismanagement is what has led to the crisis there, the Centre has held.
Over 40 people have died in the national capital as hospitals there have run out of oxygen and have been flagging the shortage every few hours.
“You can bury your head in sand like ostrich, we won’t…Are you living in an ivory tower?” the Delhi judges had said, pointing out that even the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to provide 700 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi and not 490 metric tonnes.