Beg, borrow or steal oxygen, otherwise we might lose thousands of lives: Delhi HC to Centre

Nupur Thapliyal | Live Law

New Delhi: “Citizen can only fall back on the State. So you have to beg, borrow or steal and ensure the protection of fundamental emergency”, remarked Justice Vipin Sanghi of Delhi High Court while hearing an urgent plea regarding the immediate need for oxygen at Max Hospitals in the Delhi NCR Region.

The division bench comprising of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli was hearing an urgent plea by Balaji Medical and Research Centre seeking urgent directions as regards to the supply of oxygen in the Hospitals ran by it, popularly known as Max Hospitals, operating at various branches including Saket, Vaishali, Shalimar Bagh, Patparganj and Gurgaon.

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The remark came after Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta submitted before the Bench that time was given till April 22 as regards the ban on industrial oxygen as technologically industries require about 72 hours to shut down their operations.

Questioning the said submission, Justice Sanghi asked the SGI that even in such emergent situations, to say that industries will be allowed to function and cannot be stopped even for sometime till some alternate arrangements are made will be “difficult for the bench to accept.”

At this juncture, an adjournment was sought by SGI till tomorrow to take proper instructions. Submitting this, reference was also made by the SGI to today’s tweet by the Delhi CM stating that the oxygen requirements were met.

Justice Rekha Palli on the other hand remarked, “It is a national emergency. You can direct industries with oxygen to divert.”

Vehicles Not Allowed to Reach Delhi: Rahul Mehra for GNCTD

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi Government, submitted that there were obstructions caused at Delhi-Haryana border for the movement of oxygen tankers to Delhi.

“For 8 hours at borders, our vehicles were not allowed to reach Delhi. I’m telling the ground situation. I’m grateful to Central Govt for 140 MTs. We have to micro manage every situation. We have to fight for each vehicle. Allocation is not good if we are unable to take it to the final destination. It is the hospital which says only 2-3 hours are left. How can I as state go against the medical reality?” Mehra submitted.

Human Lives Important, Commercial Interests Are Not: Bench Expresses Concerns on the Situation

Justice Vipin Sanghi said :

“Today we are in dire straits. We might lose thousands of lives for lack of oxygen. You cannot turn around and say we don’t have it, so you have to die. What we are telling you is, you have to go a step further. You have to take captive oxygen from industries. If it means that those industries have to shut till imports (of oxygen) are made, so be it. We cannot afford to lose lives. It might be inconvenient. Let it be inconvenient. Human lives are more important than commercial interests.”

Responding to the Solicitor General’s request for adjournment till tomorrow, the bench said:

“Mr.Mehta we can take this matter tomorrow. But in the meantime if there is any casualties tonight, it is your responsibility.”

Responding to the remark, SGI submitted:

“I can make a statement. We have the responsibility of allotting oxygen. The allotted oxygen will reach Delhi. That is our responsibility. The capacity is 350 which is increased to 480 MT. But internal distribution in hospitals is not our responsibility.”

Referring to the Delhi CM’s tweet, SGI further submitted that concerned officers of the State have to take up the oxygen issue with the officer of Centre and that tweeting the demand will only create a panic and anxiety.

Sunita Dawra, Additional Secretary of the Industries Department, informed the bench that the Central Government has passed an order today to raise the allocation of oxygen for Delhi as 480 MT from 370 MT.

The bench took on record this order. Taking note of this development, the bench said that it was not finalizing the order which it had dictated in the previous session. As per that draft order, the bench had directed the Centre to divert oxygen from steel and petroleum industries to Delhi.

Instead, the bench recorded the submission of the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the Centre will ensure safe and unobstructed passage of oxygen tankers to Delhi.

The bench also observed that the Delhi Government should initiate the logistical work for the internal distribution of the allotment.

The order passed by the bench is as follows :

“After hearing the counsels at length, we had drafted an order. However, the learned ASG sought accommodation for about 40 minutes to take instructions. Consequently we re-assembled at 9.20, when learned SG Tushar Mehta joined the proceedings.

Ms Sunita Dawra, Addl Secretary Industries Dept, also joined the proceedings. She is in charge of allocation of medical oxygen to various states in the country in the wake of raging pandemic

She’s informed us that today itself that allocation for NCT of Delhi has been raised from 370 MT to 480 MT and a decision regarding that was taken today. She’s informed us that the process of mapping the sources of oxygen is initiated.

Mr.Rahul Mehra, counsel for GNCTD, stated on instructions that the NCT of Delhi got somewhere between 200-250 MT of oxygen today.

He has also stated that there were obstructions for the receipt of oxygen and the same was delayed.

Mr.Tushar Mehta has assured that Central Govt will facilitate the supply of 480 MT of medical oxygen to Delhi in terms of the aforesaid order. He has assured that the Central Govt will ensure unobstructed and safe passage of tankers to Delhi. We take this statement on record. We hope that the requirements of hospitals and oxygen supply will continue to COVID patients and others until we take up the matter tomorrow.

GNCTD will initiate the logistical work for the supply of the quantity of oxygen”

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