Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., addressed the issue regarding rising death toll due to Covid-19, scarcity of medical oxygen and unavailability of supply tankers in NCT of Delhi (NCTD). The Bench stated,

“We have been seeing for ourselves, day after day, how large and small hospitals, nursing homes and even individuals are running to us with SOS calls for supply of medical oxygen.”

Issues Raised by NCTD

  1. Amicus Curiae, Rajshekhar Rao had submitted that though the Central Government had revised the allocation of oxygen to GNCTD to 590MT, the allocation orders did not take into account the capacity of the supplier. And the suppliers had expressed their inability to supply allocated oxygen stock.
  2. Reportedly, certain States which were allocated higher amount of oxygen, are reportedly witnessing a dip in their oxygen demand and not lifting their total allocated supply, therefore, the Central Government should reconsider the issue of allocation of oxygen to States, allocation of oxygen by each supplier and rationalize allocation of oxygen tankers by factoring into account the real-time requirement of oxygen in various states on a regular basis shall be done.
  3. It was further requested that the Central Government be directed to take over all the tankers in the country as a national resource and thereafter, rationally deploy the them to meet the needs of all the States and Union Territories.
  4. The GNCTD had been earmarked from suppliers who are situated at a distance of 1200 to 1500 kms from Delhi, the Central Government be directed to explore other routes as suggested by the GNCTD to enable the GNCTD to receive the oxygen from the sources in a more organized and timely manner.

Emergency Buffer Stock of Oxygen

To meet the present demands of Oxygen in the NCT of Delhi, the Bench directed the Central Government to prepare a buffer stock of Oxygen of at least, 100 MT in the NCT of Delhi in collaboration with the GNCTD, to be used for emergency. The Bench observed that the Supreme Court has already issued directions to the Central Government, and the GNCTD to act in this regard by order dated 30.04.2021:

We have also seen the situation that has developed in the last 24 hours in Delhi where patients, including among them medical professionals, died because of the disruption of supplies and the time lag in the arrival of tankers. This deficit shall be rectified immediately by the Central Government by creating buffer stocks and collaborating with the States through the virtual control room on a 24 by 7 basis.

Thus, the Bench directed the Central Government to, in collaboration with the GNCTD set up a buffer stock of 100 MT of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) in the NCT of Delhi with the further directions to do the same within next 3 days. .  The Center government was also directed to share with the GNCTD the registration numbers of the Tankers allocated for it with their GPS trackers.

Crowd Management

Observing that there are long queues at the locations of the re-fillers and Liquid Oxygen being explosive there are possibility of life causing accidents, at the request of GNCTD the Bench seek response from the Center government within 2 days for deploying a dedicated force for the purpose of crowd management at the re-filling depots preferably, Central Para Military Forces, since they are adept in crowd management respond within two days.

Dissemination of Information

Observing that the general public is still not fully aware of the protocols, the Bench directed the ICMR and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to look into expanding their reach and to disseminate information through WhatsApp and other print and audio-visual media regarding the aspects of COVID-19 protocol evolved by it, proper use of oxygen concentrators as well as cylinders, right time to seek medical attention and information about the concerning symptoms.

Supply of LMO

Taking note of the fact that GNCTD is still not receiving 700MT of liquid medical oxygen per day; even though the Supreme Court while passing its detailed order dated 30-04-2021, had directed compliance by the Union of India. The Bench rejected the submission of Mr. Sharma, counsel for Union Government that a compliance affidavit is being filed in the Supreme Court tomorrow. The Bench stated,

“We fail to understand what a compliance affidavit would do when, as a matter of fact, 700MT of liquid medical oxygen is not being delivered to Delhi on a daily basis. In fact, even the earlier allocated quantity of 490MT, which has been revised to 590 MT per day, has not been delivered for a single day.”

The Bench remarked that unfortunately, the heart-wrenching situation on the ground in Delhi  is something not present to the mind of the Central Government.  Rejecting the submission of Counsels for Union Government, Mr. Sharma and Ms. Bhati that the GNCTD is not entitled to receive 700MT of liquid medical oxygen in the light of the existing medical infrastructure, the Bench expressed,

It pains us that the aspect of supply of liquid medical oxygen for treatment of covid patients in Delhi should be viewed in the way it has been done by the Central Government.”

Lastly, a show cause notice was issued to the Central Government as to why contempt action should not be initiated for not only non-compliance of the order of this Court dated 01-05-2021, but also of the order passed by the Supreme Court dated 30-04-2021. To answer the said notice, the Union ministers Mr. Piyush Goyal and Ms. Sumita Dawra were directed to appear before the Court in the next hearing.

[Rakesh Malhotra v. NCT of Delhi and Balaji Medical And Research Center, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1869, order dated 04-05-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioners: Sr. Adv. Sacchin Puri, with Adv. Praveen K. Sharma and
Adv. Dhananjay Grover

For the Union of India: SGI Tushar Mehta, ASG Chetan Sharma, CGSC Monika Arora, CGSC  Amit Mahajan, CGSC Anil Soni, CGSC Anurag
Ahluwalia, Adv. Shriram Tiwary, Adv. Amit Gupta, Adv. Akshay
Gadeock, Adv. Sahaj Garg and Adv. Vinay Yadav

For NCT of Delhi: Sr. Adv. Rahul Mehra, ASC Satyakam, Sr. Adv. Santosh
Tripathi, ASC Gautam Narayan, ASC Anuj Aggarwal, ASC Anupam Srivastava, Adv. Aditya P. Khanna, Adv. Dacchita Sahni, Adv. Ritika Vohra and Adv. Chaitanya Gosain

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