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‘Prepare for 3rd Wave, Create Buffer Stock of Oxygen’: SC to Govt

The SC also said “There is a need to look at oxygen audit and reassess the basis for oxygen reallocation.”

Updated
COVID-19
4 min read
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The Supreme Court on Thursday, 6 May, resumed its hearing on the matter of the Centre supplying oxygen to various hospitals around Delhi, saying that the government should begin preparation for the third wave of COVID-19 by creating a buffer stock of medical oxygen.

The remark comes a day after the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India Dr KV Vijay Raghavan called the third wave of COVID-19 “inevitable,” evidencing high levels of the circulating virus, and the unpredictable time frame for it.

On Wednesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing the Centre, had said, “A team has stated that there is no justification for 700 MT” oxygen for Delhi.

The SC bench of of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah on Thursday asked Mehta, “What is the problem in enhancing the supply (of oxygen)? If it’s not required then it can be stored. But then it can be said that there is no need for oxygen panic. This will be a buffer for Delhi,” he added, The Indian Express reported.

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The bench added that if the central government makes an error in policy framing, then it will be held responsible and accountable for it, while noting that “You need to look at the issue of oxygen supply on a pan-India basis. There is a need to look at oxygen audit and also reassess the basis for oxygen reallocation.”

The Centre also submitted its plan of action on Thursday, detailing how the 700 MT of oxygen would be supplied to Delhi, as per the apex court’s directions on Wednesday.

The SC bench had also sought details about the supply chain and logistical preparations needed.

The Centre, on Wednesday, had moved SC against a Delhi High Court contempt notice issued for not supplying the allocated quota of oxygen to Delhi. Though the SC stayed the contempt notice, it did not budge from its earlier direction on 700 MT of oxygen supply to Delhi.

Putting officers in jail or hauling officers for contempt will not bring oxygen, the Supreme Court had observed.

What Happened in Today’s Hearing?

Reiterating his stand from the previous hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that Delhi’s demand of 700 MT is not correct but asserted that two oxygen express trains will reach Delhi on Thursday.

An officer from the Centre's oxygen supply department, Sumita Dawra, said that apart from the existing allocation of 460 MT, 140 MT will be operationalised from 9 May, according to Bar & Bench.

Mehta argued that hospitals with 20 to 30 beds do not have cryogenic tankers and keep cylinders, which have a capacity to hold oxygen for 12 hours; which is why there were so many SOS calls from Delhi hospitals.

However, Justice Shah said that there is a panic because SOS calls are coming from big hospitals, such as Ganga Ram.

Centre's Oxygen Allocation Formula Needs a Rethink: Supreme Court

On Wednesday, SG Mehta had said that the Centre has to allocate oxygen to the whole country and thus, reach a formula which can be implemented in all states.

As per the submission of SG Mehta, an expert group had devised a formula for computing the oxygen requirements of state, proceeding on the premise that 50 percent of the non-ICU beds require 10 litres of oxygen per minute and hundred percent of the ICU beds require 24 litres per minute, LiveLaw reported.

Today, Justice Chandrachud told the SG, “Your formula needs a re-look. When you prepared the formula, not everybody who went to ICU needed oxygen. But now many home-isolation patients need oxygen. Your formula does not take into account ambulances, COVID care facility, etc.”

The Bench also noted that besides the formal, institutional framework, there are individuals in need of oxygen who are not in such hospital environment. Justice Chandrachud said on Thursday, “The formula is a gross underestimate for Delhi.”

On Wednesday, the bench had highlighted, “We are not debunking the formula... But it is based on the assumption that hundred percent of the ICU beds need oxygen and 50 percent of the non-ICU need oxygen.”

Mehta stressed that as far as the formula is concerned, nothing is static. Justice Chandrachud pointed that obvious points had been missed by SG Mehta’s committee and was further quoted as saying, “That’s all fine, but when will it become dynamic?”

Speaking for the Delhi government, Advocate Tushar Mehra said that there is complete non application of mind on part of the Centre and added, “tankers ought to have been taken up by the Centre too for equitable distribution.”

SG Mehta further suggested that the court can, “consider having a large body which will not only look at allocation but also state-wise allocation of oxygen. The committee can form a smaller committee for auditing each state governments. In that small committee, one officer from state, Centre and two doctors.”

(With inputs from Bar & Bench)

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