Ensure Delhi Gets Enough Oxygen by Midnight, SC Tells Centre After Hospitals Send Distress Messages

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to make sure that Delhi’s oxygen deficit is plugged by midnight of May 3.

This comes after at least five hospitals sent distress messages about their dwindling stocks and a day after 12 people died at a private hospital when their oxygen support dried up.

Delhi received the most amount of medical oxygen in a day so far with 454 MT on Saturday, which came after the Delhi High Court threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against Union government officials. The apex court’s directions now mean Delhi will need to be supplied with 700MT of liquid medical oxygen by the May 3 deadline.

The Supreme Court has also directed the Centre to formulate within two weeks a national policy on admissions to hospitals in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 and said no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state for lack of local residential proof.

The bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, said till the formulation of a national policy by the Centre on admissions to hospitals, ‘no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state/UT for lack of local residential proof of that state/UT or even in the absence of identity proof.’

“The Central Government shall, in collaboration with the states, prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralize the location of the emergency stocks. The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and are to be replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the States,” the bench said.

It further said that emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and is to be replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the states.

The top court also directed the Centre to revisit its initiatives and protocols, including the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, and availability of essential drugs at affordable prices.

It asked senior advocates Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora, appointed as amicus curiae, to collate and compile these suggestions submitted by various parties.

The matter is listed for the next hearing on May 10.

The directions were passed in a suo motu case for ensuring essential supplies and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench has taken up issues such as the projected demand for oxygen in the country at present and in the near future, how the government intends to allocate it to ‘critically affected’ states, and its monitoring mechanism to ensure supply.

The Supreme Court had earlier made clear that any attempt to clampdown on the free flow of information on social media, including a call for help from people, would be treated as contempt of the court.

“There should be free flow of information; we should hear voices of citizens. This is a national crisis. There should not be any presumption that the grievances raised on the Internet are always false. Let a strong message be sent to all the DGPs that there should not be any kind of clampdown,” the bench had said while reserving its order on April 30.

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