[Oxygen Supply ] Delhi High Court Appoints Sr Adv Rajshekhar Rao As Amicus Curiae To Assist In The Delhi Covid Crisis Case

Shreya Agarwal

28 April 2021 2:11 PM GMT

  • [Oxygen Supply ] Delhi High Court Appoints Sr Adv Rajshekhar Rao As Amicus Curiae To Assist In The Delhi Covid Crisis Case

    Delhi High Court has on Wednesday appointed Sr. Adv. Rajshekhar Rao as the amicus curiae to assist the Court in the matter concerning Covid 19 situation and supply of medical oxygen in the national capital. A division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli decided to appoint an amicus considering the complexities of the issues involved. During the hearing today, Sr....

    Delhi High Court has on Wednesday appointed Sr. Adv. Rajshekhar Rao as the amicus curiae to assist the Court in the matter concerning Covid 19 situation and supply of medical oxygen in the national capital.

    A division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli decided to appoint an amicus considering the complexities of the issues involved.

    During the hearing today, Sr. Adv. Rahul Mehra appearing for the Delhi government placed a status report through an affidavit and informed that the government has passed two orders. He stated that the first order passed on Apr 27, has been kept fluid.

    The Bench inquired if it's the order where oxygen suppliers have been allocated to hospitals. Mehra answered in the affirmative.

    Mehra further said that he had suggested Delhi's Chief Secretary to allocate a refiller to every hospital so they know where to go to, rather than having a free market sort of situation. He further said that they have decided to let there be flexibility as far as suppliers are concerned.

    "Right now there are 14 refillers, some very efficient, some not so much. Our concern is that if we allocate, what if some are not able to serve properly. So we decided to let there be flexibility, they can go around serving any hospital." mehra said.

    The Court then inquired if after the alloca that has been done by the government, ill there be anything left for individuals undergoing treatment at home.

    Mehra informed the Court that 20 MT have been kept as SOS, to be used in case of emergency, if lives are at stake. However, the fact that 700 MT was required by the government but only 490 MT has been given is a problem.

    Reading out the order, Mehra stated that he concept involved is that for every hospital there is not just a main refiller but also a link refiller, in case the main one runs out of capacity.

    He further stated that through the first order, a dedicated helpline number will be open with the highest authority - Principal Secretary, Dept of Health, Delhi - to streamline any issue faced, by anyone.

    "Pursuant to My Lords' order, there was a meeting with the Chief Secretary. Let them implement this over the next 24-48 hours." Mehra said while also requesting the court to examine the status report.

    The Medical Director of Batra Hospital informed the Court that the hospital has not received the allocated oxygen. He stated that the hospital's requirement is 6000 ltrs everyday. Despite several orders by Government and HC, the allocated oxygen had not been received.

    "Either you give us the oxygen required, or allow us to stop admissions. The daily death rate is very high, patients are coming in with the psychological mindset that they're going to die, as there's no oxygen" Batra's Hospital's Director said.

    The Court however questioned him as to why, being such a big hospital, they did not set up their own oxygen plant. The problem is novel, and the issue is with both the government and the hospitals.

    The Court also asked another hospital with issues to raise them and flag them before the government as they have given them a window.

    "The bottomline is that whatever they have they will supply. They cannot hold the oxygen with themselves." the Court said.

    Adv Mahesh Agarwal submitted that the government notification must become part of the court order, since once it does, there is an obligation on the supplier to see it through.

    Adv Aseem Chaturvedi appearing for Inox, submitted that Inox had to supply 85 MT on its own and 80 MT was supposed to be picked up from Air Leakae, Panipat. However, now it has been asked to pick up oxygen from a plant in Uttarakhand, which it is not in a position to pick up.

    Sr. Adv. Krishnan Venugopal submitted that there is no single point of contact in Delhi, to tell people who are Covid positive what to do. He said that the 3 stages of Covid say that treatment should be systematically provided.

    "Are you saying that ICU beds are being given to those who don't need them? There's no basis to say that." the Bench asked.

    Venugopal responded by saying that both Kerala and Karnataka have managed it in this manner only, and presently there is a huge shortage of beds. He further pointed out the shortage occurring in crematorium facilities and stated that the crematoriums need to be set up in public grounds perhaps, as ambulances get held up there due to long queues there.

    "Fighting a problem of this magnitude is unprecedented and convoluted." the Bench remarked.

    Mehra responded to court's statement saying that there are numerous initiatives which are happening, with the Delhi govt also looking at oxygen concentrators and civil society members doing all they can.

    In response to Court's suggestions that some tasks may be taken up by the Indian Army since that has worked in Maharashtra, Mehra apprised the Court that DRDO, ITBP and Radha Soami facilities are there.

    The Court then questioned Central Govt officer, Piyush Goyal, as to what has happened about the 490 MT oxygen.

    ASG Chetan Sharma submitted that if there are some cylinders in Rajasthan, system should be put in place to procure it, as it's being raised again and again. Mr Mehra informed him that a request has been put out in the war room, verbally.

    In response to Mehra's submission, the Court stated that Mr. Goyal has quite categorically stated that no such request was made. In response to Bench's query as to why it hasn't been put in writing But Mr. Mehra, stated that considering It's a war room, verbal requests should have been enough, and if they are not, they will put it in writing as well.

    "Mr. Goyal why is not reaching them, the 490 MT? What is the point of allocation then? Don't give us bureaucratic answers." the Court asked.

    The Court questioned the Central government as to why it can't make arrangements for Delhi. The Court also asked the ASG why the empty tankers are not being carried back by them, who responded by saying that they are doing whatever is humanly possible.

    "Everyday these issues are raised. Maybe we are not in a position to beseech you." the Court asked.

    The ASG assured the Court that Pan India, there is reciprocity from both ends, whatever can happen is happening. He also added that Holistic mapping has been done.

    After the Court stated that it is not in a position to tell the Centre how mapping is to be done, ASG assured the Court that holistic mapping has already been done.

    The Court asked it should ask the amicus to look into it. It further suggested the Centre to increase the supply to Delhi from UP. Sr. Adv. Rajshekhar Rao agreed with the suggestion and said it would undoubtedly reduce the transport time.

    Mehra further told the Court that while some people are busy hoarding for near and dear ones, there are others who are giving it away for the needy ones.

    The Court observed that if the suppliers and refillers are not coming, a warrant will have to be issued. Mehra opined that these are people working on ground, and will have to comply with the Court's orders.

    Mehra also ensured the Court, that no hoarding or black marketing is happening in the refilling units. He added that while he cannot speak for anyone else, he's sure that its not happening in refilling units.

    "We are dealing with a very very difficult situation so we realize even though we may be going a little overboard, it's the need of the hour." the Bench observed

    The Court also asked Mr Mehra to ensure that the allocations that have been done to the refillers by the delhi government are to be distributed by them.

    Mehra stated that they have informed the refillers but there are long queues. The police and Marshalls are also being used to ensure that people are a little orderly

    The Court further decided to read out the list of refillers submitted before it to the refiller present in the hearing to verify it. However , the refiller Gupta stated that some of the names being read out were only dealers, not refillers, and don't have any conversion plants.

    Court further asked Mr. Gupta to give information of which of the dealers are setting up conversion plants as there should be no black marketing.Multan Air responded and stated that Black marketing is done by individuals, not plants.

    In response to Court's suggestion to have a meeting, Mr Mehra stated that a meeting will be set up with the Principal Secretary, Health at 7 pm - virtually so the refillers won't have to go there physically.

    The Bench told SG Tushar Mehta that Delhi is not getting the amount of oxygen allocated, and lives are being lost.

    "My Lords, this is purely an ever changing administrative exercise. The ground level officers cannot be engaged in giving reasons. I can give reasons. Further, different HCs are looking into the issue." Mehta said.

    Adv Ankur Mahindro raised his concern regarding issues involved in testing.

    The Court however said that it cannot get into issues of micro-management and asked him to take this up with ICMR or the relevant authorities.

    Mahindro further stated that there is a need to drastically reduce the testing report time. People get tested on 3rd or 4th day, by the time they get reports it's the 6th or 7th day, and without reports they are unable to even get medication. He also suggested that the data with respect to testing can be integrated on the app.

    During the hearing the Court was also approached by Advocate Amit Sharma who informed the Bench that his brother-in-law, and another relative have been affected due to covid and may be saved if given the proper facility.

    "What do you expect us to do if there is no bed?" the Bench said.

    Advocate Alok Aggarwal appearing for Maharaja Agrasen informed the Court that he has been given whatever facility they even though his oxygen is at 55, they are unable to help him as they don't have any ICU bed.

    Edited by Srishti Ojha 

    Click here to download the  order

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