The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to remedy the situation forthwith and to ensure the availability of 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi on a daily basis, pending further orders. It said that the Centre is under an obligation to ensure a daily supply of 700 MT of oxygen to meet the existing requirements of the national capital and directed that there shall be no reduction in the allocation and availability of medical oxygen to Delhi.
A bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said that the Centre has on record stated on April 21 that there is no dearth of oxygen and a quantity of 16,000 MT of liquid medical oxygen is available in the country. “We direct the Union of India to remedy the situation forthwith and to ensure that the direction issued by this court for the availability of 700 MT is strictly observed on a daily basis, pending further orders,” the bench said in its order passed on May 6 and uploaded on Saturday.
It noted that on May 6, the total quantity of oxygen delivered to Delhi was 577 MT, resulting in a shortfall of 123 MT and as of 9 am on May 7, the total quantity which has been received at Delhi border was 87.97 MT, while 9.64 MT was under transit. The bench said that the plan of the Centre for complying with its direction to ensure supply of 700MT of oxygen to Delhi, which has been placed before this Court “is subject to caveats and conditions which cannot be accepted”.
“What is sought to be assured in the first part of the plan is diluted with the next segment. 700 MT was not intended to be a requirement to be fulfilled for one day or sporadically, but on a daily basis. Daily basis means for every day. We accordingly direct, that there shall be no reduction in the allocation and availability of medical oxygen to NCTD and the direction in regard to the provision of 700 MT per day shall continue to be observed,” the bench said.
It said that the top court’s direction has been based on the assurance of the Centre to the court and on May 5, it has reiterated the direction for maintaining the supplies to NCTD at 700 MT per day. The bench said that the Delhi government has submitted that it has computed the requirement of oxygen on the basis of the formula which has been adopted by the Centre.
“The Union Government has not disputed the correctness of the computation on the basis of the formula. At this stage, no contrary material has been placed on the record by the Union Government. The attention of the Court has not been drawn to any error in the methodology of computation which has been adopted by GNCTD. GNCTD has drawn the attention of the Court to the serious deficiency in the availability of oxygen,” it said.
The top court said that in its April 30 order in which it was said that though the projected daily demand of Delhi as of April 20 had increased from 300 MT to 700 MT, the existing allocation of oxygen had remained at 490 MT per day. It noted the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that many of the demands made by the states and union territories, including Delhi, for the provision of medical oxygen were “unrealistic” and the problem of shortage in the national capital is due to a systemic failure to ensure proper distribution of oxygen.
The bench said, “except for a bare assertion that an increase of 210 MT to NCTD would result in a corresponding reduction to other states, no material has been produced on the record by the Union of India.” On Friday, the top court had made it clear to the Centre that it will have to keep supplying 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi every day till its order is modified, saying it meant “business” and non-compliance may force it to go “firm”.
Earlier, the top court had stayed the contempt proceedings initiated by Delhi High Court against central government officials for non-compliance of direction to supply 700 MT of oxygen for COVID patients to Delhi, saying “putting officers in jail” would not bring oxygen and efforts should be made to save lives. The top court had said that this is an all-India pandemic situation and it will have to find ways to ensure oxygen supply to the national capital.
It had said that this court cannot review its own order of April 30 and the Centre will have to inch towards supply of 700 MT of oxygen daily for Delhi and asked the Union government to place before it a plan as to how it will revamp the supply to 700MT. On May 6, the Centre had apprised the top court that it had complied with the order and instead of 700 MT liquid medical oxygen it ensured supply of 730 MT to Delhi.