The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued a show-cause notice to the central government, asking it to explain why the court should not initiate contempt proceedings against it.
Hearing matters related to shortage of medical oxygen in Delhi, the court said it has been brought to its notice that Delhi is not receiving its allocated quota of medical oxygen.
“The Supreme Court has passed an order directing the Centre to ensure the supply. The Centre has submitted to us that a compliance affidavit is being filed before the Supreme Court tomorrow. We fail to understand what good a compliance affidavit will do when the required oxygen is not being brought to Delhi? Even the allocated oxygen has not been delivered on a single day,” the court said.
It added the Centre has submitted that the Supreme Court has not directed it to supply 700 metric tonnes (MT) oxygen to Delhi. “We disagree with the Centre. The Supreme Court has clearly directed the Centre to provide 700 MT oxygen to Delhi per day.”
The court said the assurance that the Centre gave to the Supreme Court has “certainly not being fulfilled”. “We are personally seeing day after day hospitals and nursing homes running to us for emergency supply of oxygen.”
“It pains us that the aspect of supply of oxygen should be viewed in the way it has been done by the Centre. We see the grim reality every day of people not being able to secure hospital beds. The situation has come to a point where hospitals and nursing homes have had to reduce the number of beds offered by them due to shortage of oxygen,” the Delhi High Court said.
IIT, IIMs would do better job than Centre: Court
Earlier in the day, while hearing matters related to lack of adequate oxygen supply to Delhi, the court remarked IITs and IIMs would do a better job with oxygen distribution than the Centre.
The court also sought to know about the Centre’s plans to deploy the Indian Army to deal with the acute Covid-19 crisis across the country.
The rap came after the Delhi government on Tuesday presented statistics before the Delhi High Court to say that there are enough oxygen and oxygen cylinders, which are not being distributed properly.
The Delhi government said, “Allocated oxygen is 1/3rd of what the tankers can transport since the total capacity of all tankers (cryogenic, nitrogen and argon tankers) is 1600+ MT.”
“This shows there is absolutely no dearth of oxygen tankers to carry 8608 MT of oxygen throughout the country. We clearly have the tankers,” argued the Delhi government. It further added, “We don’t only have surplus oxygen, we also have surplus oxygen tankers.”
The Centre took objection to Delhi government’s submissions, but the HC refused to agree with the Centre’s stand.
The high court pulled up the Centre and said, “The facts and figures presented by the Delhi government are a matter of fact. You should hand over the distribution of oxygen tankers to an IIT or an IIM. They’ll do a much better job.”
“The point is that Supreme Court has said that Delhi must get 700 MT, so it must get it. It’s your responsibility,” said the court.
While the Centre said it has supplied Delhi with 433 MT oxygen on Monday night, the Delhi government said it is not enough. “Even with 420 MT people are dying,” said Delhi.
To this, the Centre called it a “rhetoric”. The court took strong objection to the Centre referring to the deaths as a “rhetoric”. The court asked, “How can you be so insensitive? Is this merely rhetoric? How can you say this? It’s highly unfortunate.”
The Centre also informed the court that 12 tankers carrying oxygen on their way to Delhi.
Court asks about Army deployment
The high court once again pressed on the need to deploy the Indian Army to handle the Covid crisis.
The court asked the Centre, “Nobody is doubting that you are doing everything. But sometimes you need to act on the ideas that are being presented. If you’re not agreeable to deploying the Army, then please spell out the reasons.”
The Centre replied, “The matter is being looked into at the highest level.” However, the court said that it has been over 48 hours since the court suggested Army deployment.
The Centre later told the court that it is shortly expecting “instructions in writing”.
The high court also asked the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to circulate information on use of oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders using video clips.
“People should also be informed about the symptoms that they should expect and how to deal with them; when they should get hospitalised; and what precautions they should take. This needs to be communicated by the ICMR so that people have some reliable information. There is a lot of misinformation out there,” the court said.
What are Mohalla Clinics doing during this pandemic: HC to Delhi govt
Meanwhile, pulling up the Delhi government, the high court asked how its flagship ‘Mohalla Clinics’ (community clinics) are helping during the pandemic.
“What is the point of you investing so much money and setting up so much infrastructure for these Mohalla Clinics if they can’t help during a global pandemic?” the court asked.
It has sought information from the Delhi government about the range of tests that are being conducted in these clinics and whether Covid-19 testing can be undertaken there.