‘Putting officers in jail will not bring oxygen to Delhi’: SC stays High Court’s contempt order against Centre

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Delhi High Court’s contempt notice against the Centre in the oxygen supply matter, saying exercising powers under contempt jurisdiction “will not solve the problems” faced by the national capital.

The Centre had approached the top court after the Delhi High Court issued a contempt notice against it and sought the personal appearance of its officials for non-compliance of the direction on the required supply of 700 MT of medical oxygen per day to treat Covid-19 patients in Delhi.

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.

“Putting officers in jail will not bring oxygen to city, let’s ensure lives are saved,” the apex court said in its observations, asking the Central government how much oxygen was allocated to the national capital in the last three days.

“When a country is facing a humanitarian crisis, the court must aim at problem solving,” the court said.

The apex court said the formula for oxygen supply should not be based on the number of ICU beds in the state. It also directed the Centre to place a plan before it to explain how it will comply with its order on the supply of 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi.

The court also agreed to consider the request for an audit to gauge oxygen supply and demand across India and sought names for the committee to do this.

The Centre informed the court that both the state and Union governments were “doing their best”.

In a hearing on Tuesday, the Delhi High Court on the issue of shortage of oxygen told the Centre that it might choose to “dig its head like an ostrich in the sand”, but the court will not.

Noting that people are dying, the HC asked the government: “Are you living in ivory towers?” It further asked the Centre why contempt action should not be initiated against it for not complying with judicial orders on oxygen supply to the national capital.

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