'Why did MP, Maharashtra get more oxygen?': Delhi HC pulls up Centre for saying National Capital getting sufficient oxygen supply
The court also took strong exception to SG Tushar Mehta's remarks that oxygen can be supplied to Delhi at the 'cost of lives in other states', saying it is not interested in getting for Delhi more than what's required and at the cost of other states
The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the Centre as to why Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were given more oxygen than they asked for while Delhi's allocation was not increased as per the request of the AAP government.
The query was put to the Centre by a Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, which during the hearing said the Central government has to either show some justification for this or "make amends" now that the situation has been brought to its attention.
"What's happening in Delhi? Why are we struck in 490 metric tonnes here? People close to us are not getting oxygen beds. You too are aware of it. We are getting calls for oxygen beds, hospitals. Even you must be getting calls," the court said, according to a report in NDTV.
"We have to rise as Indians. This is the single biggest challenge India has faced," the judges pointed out, the report added. The bench is hearing several pleas on the oxygen crisis and other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic which the National Capital is presently grappling.
The court granted Centre one day's time to respond and place it on record, PTI reported.
Who said what
Durign the hearing on Thursday, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for Delhi govt, placed before the court a list of oxygen demand by several states and allocations made to them and said that only Delhi was not being given what it was asking for, while others like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were getting more than what was asked for.
Mehra said that while the national capital's requirement was 700 MT per day, it was allocated 480 and 490 MT and the Centre has not increased it.
"Oxygen has to come and it has to be delivered. I'm urging please do not allow them to shift the goalpost... What has Centre done in last eight days expect giving sermons? Article 21 is affected every single day," Mehra said, addinng, "There is completely apathy for citizens of Delhi. Court will now have to pass an order. No more of this should continue," Mehra said, according to Bar&Bench, which was tweeting the court's proceedings live.
Oxygen has to come and it has to be delivered. I'm urging please do not allow them to shift the goalpost..what has Centre done in last 8 days expect giving sermons.. article 21 is affected every single day: Mehra #Oxygen
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) April 29, 2021
Delhi government counsel also projected before the court, the position of ICU and non-ICU beds in the National Capital.
Mehra said there are currently 16,272 non-ICU beds and 4,866 ICU beds and they are in the process of adding more beds. The existing oxygen demand in hospitals is 704 MT per day and after further augmentation, the daily oxygen demand will be around 1000 MT, he said, adding that his grievance was the allocation of 480-490 MT oxygen was far less than Delhi's requirement.
"How will I service this bed capacity if my allocation remains at 490 MT," Mehra said, according to Bar&Bench.
We can't be mute spectators only because they are central government. Centre is being very unfair : Mehra
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) April 29, 2021
"If court would now direct them to provide us for 1,000 MT, otherwise we will just keep adding paper orders... the bed will not have the only life saving drug for COVID, oxygen," he argued.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said more tankers are being imported to transport oxygen and it was a matter of few days and once the logistical issues get settled, the Centre will ensure whatever maximum supply is possible will be given. He further said, "We should not panic. The situation is dynamic and everything keeps on changing."
To this, the bench said panic is because of a lack of resources. "It's not because of what judges or lawyers say, panic is on the ground. People are suffering but hospitals are not taking patients. We already had loss of lives in Delhi due to a shortage of oxygen. It has fallen on you to resolve this. How you resolve is your problem?"
There have been several reports of COVID-19 patients dying in Delhi due to a shortage of oxygen. Most recently, 20 patients died due to lack of oxygen at Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospitals. There have also been reports of patients being turned away by hospitals due to a shortage in beds and oxygen supply.
During the hearing, Mehra and senior advocate Raj Shekhar Rao, who is amicus curiae in the case, informed the court that as per the national allocation plan, Maharashtra demanded 1,500 Metric Tonnes (MT) of oxygen per day and was allocated 1661 MT; similarly, Madhya Pradesh demanded 445 MT and it was allocated 543 MT and that the situation was similar for several other states.
When the bench pointed out that 25 percent more oxygen was supplied to MP than its demand, Mehta said there must be some reason why MP was given more oxygen and urged the court not to go into pan India allocation.
"If there is any extra allocation to Madhya Pradesh, it is because of the surge in cases in two of their districts. It is not NDA government versus others. It is the Centre which is working with the states," Mehta argued.
He also said that there were other states as well which have received lesser than what they demanded, including Gujarat which demanded 1,000 MT, but received 975 MT.
Not interested in giving Delhi more than required, says HC
While arguing on behalf of the Centre, Mehta also said that oxygen can be taken from Madhya Pradesh and given to Delhi at the “cost of people’s lives” if the court desires, The Indian Express reported.
The court took strong objection to Mehta's argument, and said, "Please do not project it like that. Don’t project it as if we are wanting something and taking away... We don’t appreciate this. We are going by facts and figures. Let’s not get emotional about it. You have to beat this head on. You cannot duck. When the demand was 445, how do you allocate 540 and if the demand is 1,500, how do you allocate 1,616,” asked the court, while referring to demand and allocation of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra."
"By no means are we interested in getting for Delhi more than what's required at the cost of another state. However, if the submissions of Mehra are to be accepted, the Centre needs to explain the chart" the bench clarified, according to the report.
The court has given the Centre a day's time to explain the data in the alottment of oxygen.
With inputs from PTI
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