The central government today lost its case in the Supreme Court against a High Court order asking it to increase its supply of medical oxygen to Karnataka for Covid patients. “We cannot leave the people of Karnataka in the lurch,” the Supreme Court said.
“The Karnataka High Court order is a careful, calibrated exercise and we see no reason to entertain the Centre’s appeal,” ruled the judges.
The Centre had yesterday requested the Supreme Court to “urgently” put on hold the ruling asking it to increase the daily liquid medical oxygen allocation for Karnataka to 1,200 MT.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said Karnataka was being supplied 965 MT oxygen. There was “no rationale” to that order, he said, and it would lead to chaos in the management and distribution of oxygen across the country.
“If every High Court starts passing orders then it will be unworkable,” the Centre argued.
“Madras, Telangana and other High Courts are also examining this issue. Let High Courts distribute oxygen to states. We have a limited quantity and we can sit together.”
Mr Mehta said the Centre was ready to sit with Karnataka and resolve it.
Justice DY Chandrachud said “even with 3.95 lakh cases”, Karnataka had requested 1,700 tonnes of oxygen and 1,100 MT was the minimum requirement.
“It is an extraordinary well-calibrated exercise by the High Court. It is a calibrated and well-considered exercise of power by the High Court,” said Justice Chandrachud.
The Supreme Court said it would “interfere” at an appropriate stage.
Karnataka is among the states worst hit by the deadly second wave of Covid and Bengaluru has been reporting consistently high numbers. On Thursday, Karnataka recorded 49,058 fresh infections and 328 deaths.
The Supreme Court has for several days been hearing disputes between the centre and various states over the supply of oxygen and other essential resources in the Covid spiral.
Before taking up the Karnataka case, the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to supply 700 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi everyday “till further orders”.
“When we say 700 metric tonnes, it means (the amount of medical oxygen to be supplied) everyday to Delhi. Please do not drive us to a situation to take coercive steps… We are clarifying that it will be 700 MT everyday,” the top court said sternly, a day after prolonged arguments in court.