We have ensured nobody was left without oxygen in the country: Centre to Delhi HC

The court was hearing another oxygen shortage plea filed by Maharaja Agrasen Hospitals; matter adjourned to April 26

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Maharaja Agrasen Hospital (MAH) has joined the ranks of several other hospitals that are petitioning the Delhi High Court for urgent oxygen supply to treat Covid patients. The court heard a plea filed by MAH today on April 24. Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli noted that the oxygen supply in the National Capital has primarily been affected due to non-arrangement of cryogenic tanks by the Delhi Government, asking the Centre to consider assisting the State in arranging the same.

MAH, represented by Advocate Alok Kumar Aggarwal claimed that it currently has 306 patients with almost 100 critical ones but are being forced to discharge them due to oxygen shortage. In the midst of the hearing, another hospital Jaipur Golden intervened and said that 25 patients lost their lives last night and the Delhi government failed to respond to their oxygen needs.

LiveLaw quoted Advocate Sachin Datta (for the intervening hospital) as saying, “Patients are dying, Mr. Mehra (Delhi government’s counsel) needs to put his house in order… Mr. Mehra, there is complete apathy of your officers on ground.” Rahul Mehra on the other hand argued that they have yet not received the promised 480 metric ton oxygen supply from the Centre.

He told the Bench, “Yesterday instead of the supply increasing to 480 MT as allocated, we received 292 MT. 100 MT have fallen short…Some hospital contacts us for 10 MT, we are able to give only 1 MT, how will the hospitals function? I’m not being alarmist or sensationalist but if nothing is put in place now, a situation will arise, lot of lives will be lost.”

The court reacted strongly to this and questioned the Central Government. According to B&B, the High Court Bench asked, “Mr Mehta (Solicitor General), just tell us we want a definite date. When is the 480 MT coming? It was your assurance….480 is still to see the light of the day. This is the only problem today. Nobody is saying you are not working or being unfair…citizens can’t be allowed to die like this.” To this, Tushar Mehta responded, “I know my responsibility. I’m not saying anything. Let’s try and not be a cry baby”.

The Centre tried to assure the High Court that all oxygen shortage pleas are being dealt with. Tushar Mehta told the Bench that 50 metric tons of oxygen is being imported, other areas are being augmented and wherever possible, oxygen production is being tapped. He pointed out that certain hospitals in Delhi do not have storage capacity and that angle is also being looked at. He also confidently remarked in court that, “So far we have ensured that nobody in the country was left without oxygen”, as per Bar & Bench. The court then highlighted the plight of Jaipur Golden Hospital that lost its patients due to oxygen shortage.

Further, the Bench also heard the issue of shortage of cryogenic tankers used for transportation of oxygen in Delhi. According to LiveLaw, the Centre insisted that Delhi must arrange its own tanks like all the other States but the Delhi Government submitted that Delhi is not an industrial state and hence has no tanks.

The Bench seemed to have agreed with the Centre on this issue and questioned the lackadaisical approach of the Delhi Government. LiveLaw quoted the Bench saying, “The problem is you think allocation is done so everything will be served at your doorstep but that’s not how it works. After allocation have you made any efforts for the tankers to collect the oxygen? Every state is arranging its own tankers, if you’re not having your own tanks, arrange them. You will have to do it, get in touch with the Central government officers. We are not here to facilitate contact between officers.”

The court took cognisance of all hospitals (Maharaja Agrasen, Batra, Jaipur Golden) and the shortage it has been facing and noted that there are no tanks in the capital. It has directed the government to take steps in this regard with help of a sub group and in case tanks are in short supply, the Centre has been instructed to help.

According to Bar & Bench, the court also asked the Central government and Delhi government how they plan to deal with the tsunami of cases. It said, “Other aspect is, it was in papers. According to IIT, Delhi, peak will come in mid-May… it’s a tsunami. How are we trying to build the capacity…How are we preparing as on date to deal with mid-May…What are the projections. We know this disease has low mortality…some will eventually die. What is not good that where people who could be saved, we are losing those. It is our responsibility to see that those who can be saved are brought back from death.”

In this regard, they’ve been instructed to look into augmentation of resources i.e., beds, medicines, doctors, other medical staff, in view of experts claiming that the peak of the present wave is yet to be reached.


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