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Delhi High Court Seeks Centre's Response On Delhi Govt Request For Armed Forces Support For Oxygen Supplies, COVID Facilities

Srishti Ojha
3 May 2021 11:14 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Seeks Centres Response On Delhi Govt Request For Armed Forces Support For Oxygen Supplies, COVID Facilities

The Delhi High Court has on Monday directed Centre to report instructions on action taken on communication made by Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, to Defense Minister Rajnath Singh for lending services of armed forces to set up Covid 19 facilities, oxygen supply, etc.

A Division bench comprising of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli sought the instructions on the submissions made by Senior Advocates Abhinav Vashisht, Krishna Venugopal and amicus curiae Rajshekhar Rao.

On Oxygen Supply, Transportation and Assistance of Army and Air Force

During the course of hearing, the Bench was apprised by Senior Advocate Abhinav Vashisht that the assistance of armed forces is taken for providing logistical support with regards to the oxygen supply. According to Vashisht, this would also do away with instances of black marketing and would eventually lessen the difficulties faced by doctors and patients in the national capital.

At this stage, Senior Advocate Krishna Venugopal also suggested the Court that the Delhi Government may contact Local Commanders of Army, Navy and Air force incharge of Delhi establishments, so time of coordination between Ministries may be reduced.

Similarly, amicus curiae Rao suggested that Army's help may be taken to take care of filling stations, where diversion seems to he happening on ground.

"A buffer stock can be maintained, atleast for next two days." Said Rao.

Replying to the aforesaid submissions, Rahul Mehra appearing for GNCTD, while relying upon the Supreme Court's order in the suo moto covid supplies case, submitted thus:

"Please ask them till when will Supreme Court's directions be complied with. We don't need to argue further. It's already been said by SC. They have said that Delhi govt and Centre needs to co-operate. I'm requesting this be implemented."

Reading out the Apex court's order stating that the deficit has to be dealt with by Centre by creating buffer stock, coordinating with states, Mehra went ahead to submit that the issue of transportation of medical oxygen by suppliers should be taken up by the Central Government.

"They should not write letters, they should tell us what to do, in need of interest of citizens." Mehra argued.

At this juncture, Advocate Vashisht argued "We're clear its a war, and wars can be fought by armed forces and not by common citizens. We're in a war like situation."

The Bench took note of the letter dated 2nd May 2021 written by the Delhi Government to the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh asking for the support of armed forces for setting up covid facilities.

At this point, Sharma however submitted that since the Supreme Court had issued directions and the parties were before it, the issue must be left to be considered by the Apex Court.

Not agreeing to the aforesaid submission, the Bench remarked thus:

"Supreme Court has not dealt with requirement of more beds. SC has considered and dealt with oxygen regarding oxygen and State Cooperation, not regarding hospital beds etc."

Furthermore, Justice Sanghi orally observed "You can't tell us Supreme Court has passed the order SC will deal with it. We are all duty bound."

The Court took note of the suggestion made by Mr. Venugopal that communication be sent to station commanders in Delhi to expedite the actions to be taken in pursuance of the aforesaid.

During the later course of hearing, ASG Chetan Sharma apprised the bench that the Defense Minister, Rajnath Singh is himself looking into the issue.

On Covid Guidance and Management of Covid Patients

During the course of hearing, suggestions poured in from Mr. Venugopal who apprised the bench about clinical guidance for management of Adult covid19 patients.

"I'm told there are now US and UK doctors helping patients in India through tele consultation and retain people even at stage of moderate condition and avoiding hospitalisation. This tele consultation can help. If its done well it would be equally effective in Delhi." Venugopal submitted.

Furthermore, it was also suggested that larger number of retired doctors can be brought in to reduce the crisis in near future.

On this, amicus curiae Rao suggested that the Government can put a system in place for people to know when to consult a doctor.

Flagging the issues with regards to crematoriums and oxygen Concentrators, Venugopal submitted thus:

"I'm told 100s of concentrators are stuck in customs. If the custom can be put on war footing to clear immediately on priority, first to hospitals then individuals followed by distributord with undertaking to not black market. We can make demands from State, but when we see people dying, we feel we need to step up and help. Delhi govt with the LG can being something in."

At this juncture, the Bench enquired about the status of pending oxygen concentrators.

"People should not loose lives for this. That there are resources but they are pending clearance", the bench observed.

Portal on Availability of Covid Medicines, Testing, Oxygen Supply: Issues Highlighted by Amicus

Amicus Curiae Rao flagged important issues with regards to the administration of covid drugs and covid supplies in the national capital.

Starting of, Rao highlighted that the portal for medicines which had to be operational in one day according to court's order, been done yet by the GNCTD.

Furthermore, Rao also highlighted that issues with regards to oxygen supply and availability of CNG Cylinders.

"There's issue of testing. ICMR has issued appropriate guidelines, but have to br communicated. We've pointed out aspects to be considered. One is Direction to Centre and Delhi to clarify status of RTPCR alternative tests."

Furthermore, Rao also suggested that the waitlist status of beds should be updated by hospitals, so that a person won't go there.

"Other issue is Notices are being issued by GNCTD to hospitals threatening coercive action as they're not augmenting their oxygen capacities." Rao continued.

On Supreme Court Directions Regarding Oxygen Supply

On an update asked by the Bench on Supreme Court's directions regarding oxygen supply, ASG Chetan Sharma informed the Court that 6 additional tankers carrying 20 MT each reached yesterday in the national capital, making the total oxygen supply to 120MT.

At this juncture, Mehra apprised the Court that a status report will be filed tomorrow before the Court dealing with all the concerns and issues raised by the Court today.

In a special Sunday sitting, the Delhi High Court yesterday directed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi to ensure that COVID drugs, oxygen cylinders and medical equipments for pandemic treatment are not sold above the Maximum Retail Price. The bench had also observed in the order that Centre has to ensure the availability of cryogenic tankers for the supply of oxygen.

Edited by Nupur Thapliyal

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