‘Ensure MHA Order Is Implemented’: Delhi HC on Oxygen Shortage

Delhi High Court on 21 April, directed Centre to ensure the supply of medical oxygen by “whatever means required”.

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday, 22 April, took note of the fresh MHA order on movement of oxygen supply vehicles between states and said, “We direct the Central government to ensure allocation takes place as planned and transportation of the tankers takes place unhindered. Adequate security to be provided to lorries transporting the oxygen, to move without obstruction.”

The High Court directed all authorities concerned to ensure strict compliance of the MHA order, that there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of medical oxygen.

The bench also made it clear that non-compliance of the order will invite criminal action, as it can result in loss of lives.

This order came after several hospitals in the national capital rushed to the High Court pleading for help, as they were running out of oxygen supply in their units, after Haryana government allegedly sealed supplier plants.

Advocate Rahul Mehra representing the Delhi government, informed the court that Saroj Hospital and Shanti Mukund Hospital will run out of oxygen soon. The supply has been stopped from UP and Haryana. We aren't able to contact oxygen firm Inox, he added.

The Delhi High Court suggested that oxygen firm Inox should continue to supply to Delhi and the Panipat plant should supply to Haryana. It further said, “Your allocation of oxygen is not being respected by some states; look at it on an urgent basis and resolve immediately.”

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Mehta apprised the Delhi High Court that the Centre has passed an order stating that anyone obstructing oxygen supply may face action. There should be no restriction on oxygen supplier and oxygen-carrying vehicle, and states must allow free movement of these vehicles.

To this, the High Court noted, “You’ve passed the order, please see that it’s implemented...If the government wants they can make heaven and earth meet.”

With regard to Delhi government’s suggestion to transport oxygen by air, the bench said that according to its legal researchers, airlifting of oxygen was very dangerous and it has to be transported either by road or rail.

SG Tushar Mehta also informed the Delhi HC that oxygen can be produced at Vedanta Plant which was closed in Tamil Nadu, “We can reopen it to produce medical oxygen, which will be provided free of cost. Vedanta Plant is currently not working due to violation of environmental norms.”

An MHA official informed the court that the ministry is continuously in touch with a nodal officer of Delhi for a smooth supply of oxygen to hospitals.

He further noted, “Suppliers are giving to various hospitals, the Nodal Officer, Mr Udit Raj– an IAS Officer of UP Cadre – makes adjustments to ensure that no hospital faces shortages.”

In an urgent hearing, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday, 21 April, had directed the central government to ensure the supply of medical oxygen by “whatever means required”.

“You are not exploring all avenues to augment oxygen supply. Beg, borrow or steal," the court had told the Centre, and asked why it was not able to see the gravity of the emergency situation.

The order came after an urgent plea filed by Max Healthcare, citing an acute shortage of oxygen. Max had informed the court that it currently has only three hours of oxygen and if the oxygen runs outs, the lives of 400 patients, out of which 262 are COVID patients, are under threat.

The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli, earlier in the evening, directed the central government to protect the right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require medical oxygen.

Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, Rohini had moved the Delhi High Court seeking urgent critical supply of oxygen to it after Max Hospitals.

Mehra also suggested higher authorities to be set up from both the governments to deal with the issue. The court has further sought a status report on the matter in four days.

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