May 7, 2021 1:51:43 am
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah also called upon the Centre to ensure Delhi continues to get 700 metric tonnes (MT) of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and reiterated the need to re-examine the current formula for supplying oxygen, which is based on the number of ICU and non-ICU beds. The court was told Delhi had been supplied 730 MT oxygen on Wednesday.
“We understand everybody who dies are not dying due to lack of oxygen. But can it be denied that oxygen is not a critical component?”, the bench asked while hearing a plea by the Centre against the contempt notice issued to its officers by the Delhi High Court in the matter of LMO supply to Delhi. Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta submitted that supplies had to be diverted from other states to meet the capital’s demands. “We may enter stage three. If we prepare today ,we may be able to handle it. Whatever stocks have been procured need to be sent to hospitals…,” said Justice Chandrachud.
He added the third surge, which, as per experts “is around the corner”, would affect children. “So when a child goes to hospital, a mother and father will go too,” he said, adding, “that is why vaccination will have to be over for this group of people. We must plan for this scientifically and make arrangements”.
The hearing also saw the Delhi government and Centre spar over oxygen supplies to the capital, with the Centre saying an expert group, comprising Niti Aayog member V K Paul and AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria among others, had opined that the demand for 700 MT was unrealistic, and demanded an oxygen audit to have a realistic assessment of the needs of various states. SG Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the audit committee will look at the actual demand for oxygen, how it is being distributed and problems being faced by Delhi in accessing the supply. Appearing for the Delhi government, advocate Rahul Mehra said of the audit, “All our doctors and officers are trying to help in this crisis. If even one such person is made a part of the committee, it will be an injustice to a person’s life”. But the SG repeated the demand for an audit, and said there is a “systemic failure” contributing to the shortage in the capital.
The court also called upon the Centre and states to utilise the 1.5 lakh doctors who have finished their medical courses and awaiting the NEET exam, saying,“The current crop of doctors are completely fatigued and at the end of their tether.”
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