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Release essential medicines and oxygen seized from hoarders to hospitals and needy: HC to Delhi govt

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Thursday directed the Delhi government to immediately release the essential medicines and injections like Remdesivir to the hospitals seized by the police from the black marketers and hoarders
By Richa Banka
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 10:50 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Thursday directed the Delhi government to immediately release the essential medicines and injections like Remdesivir to the hospitals seized by the police from the black marketers and hoarders.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli issued the directions to the deputy commissioner (DC) of the city government’s revenue Department to ensure that the seized drug and oxygen cylinders does not remain as case property and instead given to the needy, owing to shortage in the market.

The court, however, said that oxygen cylinders should not be seized from individual patients and their attendants.

“Whenever any seizure is made, the IOs should immediately inform the DCs and also ascertain the genuineness of medicine. The medicine should also be immediately put in refrigerated environment. We also direct the Delhi Police to not seize any cylinder or medicine from patients or attendants. It goes without saying that Delhi Police would be bound to conduct investigation with cooperation of public at large,” the court said in an oral order.

The directions come after the bench took note of the suggestions made by Kanwaljeet Arora, member secretary of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) on raids conducted on Wednesday, during which the police had seized 200 oxygen cylinders and remdesivir injections from the blackmarketeers.

Arora suggested that such seized medicines and oxygen cylinders ought to be put to use, instead of being kept as case property, in the present situation when there is a dearth of the same. He also submitted that the police had moved an application for the release of such medicines in a city court. However, the same was rejected because it was not under judicial review.

He said that under the Essential Commodities Act, the DC (Deputy Commissioner) had the powers to release the confiscated item.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that after the raids on Wednesday, the government had spoken to the Commissioner of Delhi to take necessary actions and the Crime Branch, cyber Cell of the Delhi police have also been taken aboard.

The court was hearing a plea by lawyer-petitioner Rakesh Malhotra, who along with several hospitals had sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government for better facilities and continuous supply of oxygen in the hospitals and nursing homes of the city.

Two more PSA oxygen plants from today

The Delhi government told the high court on Thursday that two more pressure swing absorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants will become operational in the city from Friday, adding that it needed 1,000 metric tonnes of oxygen to augment intensive care unit beds needed to handle the rush of critical Covid patients as a deadly wave of Covid-19 was sweeping through the city.

Delhi government’s counsel Rahul Mehtra made the submission before a high court bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli while giving a status report on the Centre’s plan to set up PSA oxygen units at different Delhi hospitals.

Mehra said two PSA oxygen plants are operational in the city. Regarding the remaining four plants, the senior advocate said the vendor allotted by the Centre has been called to some other state and only two units are running currently. He said that setting up of these plants will help the Delhi government augment its bed capacity to prepare for a predicted surge in mid May.

According to the Delhi government’s Corona app, only 11 of the total 4,933 ICU beds were available in the city on Thursday at 9.30pm.

The court asked the Centre to expedite the installation of the remaining four PSA oxygen generation plants.

Seek DRDOs help

The bench also directed the Delhi government to take immediate steps to request the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for its “on board oxygen generation system”, developed for use on aircrafts, which can be installed in hospitals to produce medical grade oxygen.

The direction to approach DRDO was issued by the court after it was informed that the Uttar Pradesh government has already made such a request for the system which can produce 1000 litres of oxygen per minute. The court said these measures would help augment the oxygen generation capacity of Delhi which is grappling with a scarcity of the life saving gas.

Suppliers told to join hearing

The court also issued notice to the companies which supply oxygen to hospitals in Delhi and asked them to join the hearing on Friday. It directed them to keep ready with them the “hospital-wise, quantity-wise and time-wise” data on oxygen supplied by them to the hospitals here after several of them complained that they were not getting the full quota of oxygen allocated to them by the Delhi government.

The direction was issued after S Bankata, executive director of the Batra Hospital, told the court that one of the suppliers had not given them oxygen despite an addendum by the Delhi government. He anticipated a deep crisis in the next three-four hours as the supply was going to finish.

Set up a portal for philanthropists

The bench, during the hearing, also said that setting up more oxygen generation would help the Delhi government to provide oxygen supply to individual citizens who might be isolating themselves at home for treatment. It also asked the Delhi government to set up a portal for NRI’s and people wanting to donate medical equipments for the Indians.

“Let the Delhi government create a portal for this purpose so that persons sitting abroad and desirous of making imports of equipments to India are in a position to give all details and ship in the name of Delhi government. A status report be filed in this regard by tomorrow,” the bench said.

The court was informed that there are NRIs who are ready to assist India in its fight against COVID-19 by gifting medical equipment like oxygen concentrators but they do not know where to send it. They said there is no mechanism by which Delhi government can accept such imports of medical equipments.

Oxygen supply to Haryana

The bench also clarified that its order on Delhi government taking over the supervision of an oxygen refiller plant, which also supplies to neighbouring states, will not adversely affect the oxygen supply to Haryana.

The court’s order came on an application filed by the Haryana government seeking clarification regarding the April 27 order of taking over charge of ‘Seth Air’ which is situated in Palwal and supplies oxygen cylinders in Delhi and Haryana.

It was informed that the allocation for Haryana and Delhi was 21 and 38.5 MT per day of liquid medical oxygen respectively from this refiller plant.

The bench also turned down individual requests of patients who had moved to the court seeking directions to allot them hospital beds saying that if it allows one request, there would 20,000 petitions flooding the court.

The court was hearing a plea by lawyer-petitioner Rakesh Malhotra, who along with several hospitals had sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government for better facilities and continuous supply of oxygen in the hospitals and nursing homes of the city.

The matter will be now heard on Friday.

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