Country is being run by God, remarks HC amid oxygen shortages
The Delhi high court on Thursday warned of criminal action against authorities failing to ensure “safe” and “unobstructed” passage of oxygen cylinders for hospitals in the city from different states, while regretting that “the country is being run by God”.
“We direct the Centre to ensure strict compliance of the allocation order of April 21, April 22 of the ministry of home affairs under the Disaster Management Act and our order of April 21. We also direct all the authorities concerned who are bound by the order to ensure its strict compliance... We want to make it clear that this order is implemented immediately since non-compliance is likely to result in grave loss of lives and we put it to everyone that non-compliance of these orders will also invite criminal action”.
“We direct the Centre to ensure that supplies of all the oxygen producing plants as per the allocation order are made and transportation takes place without any hindrance… to ensure that adequate security is provided to the lorries transporting oxygen and that there is no obstruction created. A special corridor may be created for immediate transportation,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli said.
The bench, on Wednesday, in a late evening hearing, had got the Centre to assure it that safe and unobstructed passage would be provided to oxygen cylinders for patients in Delhi from different states. The Centre on Thursday issued an order with directions on timely and unhindered transportation of oxygen.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, told the court that the ministry of home affairs has issued an order to all the states and Union territories to ensure that no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free interstate movement.
The direction came after the Delhi government told the court that the amount of oxygen that was to come from Panipat in Haryana was not being allowed to be picked up by the local police there. The court was also informed that several hospitals in the city such as Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, Rohini, Balaji Action Centre, Paschim Vihar, and many others had run out of oxygen supply and were left only with a few hours of medical oxygen.
An anguished high court nudged the Centre and remarked during the hearing, “We all know that the country is being run by God,” adding that the situation in the city had become “precarious”. It said the Centre should make sure that oxygen reached the national capital without any hiccups.
“If the government wants it can do anything and can even make heaven meet earth,” it observed.
The directions were passed on a plea by advocate Rakesh Malhotra who sought ramping up of tests in the city. The petition, which was disposed of, was again revived by the HC on Monday, April 19, noting that the virus had raised its “ugly head” once again and that the “health care infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse”.
The court noted that the Centre’s allocation of oxygen for Delhi from plants in other states such as Haryana was not being respected by the local administration there and it needed to be resolved immediately.
With respect to the transportation by air, as suggested by the Delhi government, the court said oxygen cannot be airlifted as it would be hazardous and in case of an accident would not only affect the aircraft but also the population where it falls.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told the bench, “If there is any roadblock by any individuals or any officers, the officers have been instructed that if they are involved in any such activity they will be departmentally dealt with.”
The bench, while dictating its order, said, “The position in Delhi has turned rather precarious with several hospitals reporting that either they have insufficient oxygen or it will not last for a longer period.”