Clarify or face contempt, HC tells Centre on Delhi oxygen disaster

Today News Online Service

New Delhi, May 4

Piqued over shortage of oxygen in the Capital, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against it for failing to comply with the order to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients.

Edit: Waiting to breathe

“ You can put your head in sand like an ostrich, we will not.” — Bench

Coming down heavily on the Centre over the inadequate oxygen supply to Delhi, a Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli said: “You (Centre) can put your head in sand like an ostrich, we will not…. Are you living in ivory towers?”

Army base hospital short of oxygen supply?

Even as the O2 quota of the Army Base Hospital in Delhi has been reduced, the Western Command said there was “adequate supply”. Sources, however, said the hospital was short of 2.4 MT O2 daily.

It ordered two senior Central government officers to remain present before it on Wednesday to respond to the contempt notice.

The Bench rejected Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma’s submission that the top court had not directed supply of 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi.

As Sharma said a compliance affidavit of the April 30 order would be filed in the Supreme Court by Wednesday morning, the Bench said, “We fail to understand what good a compliance affidavit will do when as a matter of fact 700 MT of oxygen is not delivered to Delhi? Even the earlier allocated 490 MT and revised 590 MT has not been delivered even for a single day.”

The HC said, “It pains us that the aspect of supply of oxygen for treatment of Covid-19 patients in Delhi should be viewed in

the way it has been done by the Centre.”

The April 30 order of the Supreme Court contained a direction to the Centre to provide 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi, not just 490

MT, it pointed out.

“We had told you contempt is the last thing in our mind but it is certainly in our mind and don’t drive us to that last point. We mean business now. Enough is enough. Be clear on this. We are not going to take a no for an answer. There is no way you won’t supply 700 MT…We would not hear anything except compliance,” the Bench told Sharma.

“We see the grim reality everyday of people not being able to secure oxygen or ICU beds in hospitals,” which have reduced beds due to gas shortage, it noted.

Taking note of 12 deaths at Batra Hospital in the Capital due to lack of oxygen supply, the Delhi High Court had on May 1 directed the Centre to supply 490 MT of oxygen to Delhi during the day itself by whatever means or face contempt of court action.

“Water has gone over our head. Now we mean business. Enough is enough,” a visibly upset Bench had said.

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