The Supreme Court asked to see a “national plan” on oxygen supply, essential drugs and method of vaccination and issued notice to the Centre on a day India recorded the world’s biggest surge in Covid cases – 3.14 lakh cases and over 2,104 deaths in a day.
“We want to see the national plan on this issue,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde. The hearing will take place tomorrow.
The Supreme Court has stepped into the case at a time six High Courts across the country are hearing related petitions involving the crisis of oxygen, beds and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir in hospitals.
“We want to know. In regard to the four issues of supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and we want to keep the power to declare lockout with the states,” said the Chief Justice.
“We wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues we find in six High Courts – Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta and Allahabad. Now they are exercising their jurisdiction in best interest. But what is happening is some kind of confusion and diversion of resources.”
In a separate hearing on Vedanta’s petition to open its closed copper plant in Tamil Nadu for the production of oxygen, Chief Justice Bobde remarked that “the present situation is like national emergency”. For three days, the Delhi High Court has been hearing emergency requests for oxygen and other resources from the city government and various hospitals in the city.
Two emergency hearings at the Delhi High Court ended late last night after an oxygen tanker left for a hospital of the Max Group, the city’s biggest hospital chain, which had approached the court pleading for help as it was almost out of oxygen for its Covid patients.
The High Court expressed “shock and dismay” over the government’s handling of the oxygen crisis and directed the Centre to “beg, borrow, steal” but ensure enough oxygen supply for hospitals.
“The citizen can only fall back on the state. It is the responsibility of the government. Beg… borrow… or steal, it is your job,” said the court.
“How is the government so oblivious of the reality on the ground? You cannot have people die because of no oxygen. You take your own sweet time and people die.”
In the escalating health crisis for the country, with resources and infrastructure stretched to the hilt, states have been bickering with the centre or other states over the supply of oxygen, vaccine and medicines.
On Thursday, India reported 3,14,835 new infections, the world’s highest daily tally and a record 2,104 deaths in 24 hours.