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Delhi govt’s panel can look into Covid deaths due to oxygen shortage, says HC

The Delhi government told the court that the committee will not attribute liability or fault on anyone including the hospitals and that the compensation will be paid by the State.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 23, 2021 10:34:10 am
A Covid-19 patient receives oxygen inside a car provided by a Gurdwara in New Delhi. (AP Photo/File)

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that the high-powered committee constituted by Delhi government to probe the role of the lack of oxygen behind deaths of Covid patients can proceed on its assigned role, after it was told that the committee was only a fact-finding panel and its functioning would not overlap with the mandate of the Sub-Group constituted on orders of the Supreme Court with regard to the medical oxygen issues.

Delhi government’s decision to set up the panel had earlier been stayed by the L-G. The bench passed the order on Tuesday while hearing a woman’s petition arguing there was no reasonable justification for stalling the functioning of the High Powered Committee as the issues like health or grant of ex gratia monetary reliefs or other benefits to the affected sections of society are matters which fall “within the exclusive domain of the Government of Delhi”. The woman, whose husband died of Covid-19 in May at a private hospital, had argued that non-operationalisation of the committee was arbitrary and smacks of mala fide.

The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh took note of the government stand that the Committee will not attribute any liability or fault on anyone including the hospitals and that the compensation will be paid by the State. The criteria for determining the compensation will be open to scrutiny, the court noted in its order.

The Committee has been asked by the government to probe the deaths in such cases where complaints are that the people died on account of oxygen shortage. The Committee is expected to draw up criteria for compensation limited to a maximum of Rs 5 Lakh each.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, had earlier submitted that the L-G had not referred the matter to the President and has primarily objected to setting up of the high-powered committee on the ground that the Supreme Court has already constituted a sub-group committee.

“The government of the day has taken a decision that a maximum of Rs 5 Lakh of compensation, depending upon the committee report, wherever there is negligence shall be granted. What is now taking place in Delhi is… because of this conflict which needs to be decided at the earliest … the citizen is being shortchanged, that can’t be permitted. At least from the point of view of the citizen, there should be an end to it,” Mehra told the court.

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