‘Like an ostrich’: Delhi high court’s contempt notice to Centre on oxygen supply
The high court directed Piyush Goyal and Sumita Dawra, additional secretaries in the ministries of home affairs and industrial promotion, respectively, to be present in court on Wednesday.
The Delhi high court on Tuesday issued a show-cause notice to the Central government over the “non-compliance” of its order from last Saturday to provide 700 metric tonnes (MT) of medical oxygen for the treatment of patients of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Delhi. The high court directed the presence of Piyush Goyal and Sumita Dawra, additional secretaries in the ministries of home affairs and industrial promotion, respectively, before it on Wednesday to answer the notice.
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The notice, it said, was also over the “non-compliance” of the Supreme Court’s order from May 2, directing the Centre to rectify the issue of shortage of medical oxygen in the Capital’s hospitals, on or before the midnight of May 3.
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"You can put your head in sand like ostrich, we will not," the high court remarked. on Tuesday.
“During the course of the hearing, it has been brought to our notice that Delhi has still not received 700 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen even though the Supreme Court had directed compliance by the Union of India by midnight on May 3,” the court said during the hearing, also noting that the Centre has submitted that it will file a compliance affidavit in the apex court on Wednesday.
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“We fail to understand what good compliance affidavit would do when 700 MTs oxygen is not being delivered to Delhi. Even 590 MTs per day has not been delivered for a single day,” the bench further said. It also noted that though the Centre has submitted that the apex court has not directed supply of 700 MTs, a “complete reading” of the order shows that the Union government was directed to supply medical oxygen in the said quantity.
The persual of the Supreme Court order, the bench said, shows that it has recorded the Delhi government’s statement that against the demand of 700 MTs, the manufacturers have been able to supply only 445 MTs of oxygen.
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“Supreme Court also took note of the allocation in favour of Delhi which was 490 MTs, which is sufficient to show that it directed that the Delhi government should be given 700 MTs,” the high court said. Pointing to the Supreme Court taking note of the “heart rendering” situation in Delhi and assurance given by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to meet the Delhi government’s demands, it rejected statements that “Delhi is not entitled to receive 700 MTs.”
“It pains us that the aspect of supply of oxygen for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in Delhi should be viewed from the way it has been done by the Central government,” the court said.
Several hospitals in Delhi have, in recent days, approached the Delhi high court complaining of shortage of medical oxygen; there have also been instances of patients losing their lives due to its shortage. According to a health department bulletin on May 3, the city-state’s Covid-19 tally stands at 1,212,989, after 18,043 more people tested positive on the day. The tally includes 1,105,983 recoveries, 89,592 active cases and 17,414 related fatalities.