Why Some States Got More Oxygen Than They Asked For, But Delhi Got Less? Delhi High Court Asks Centre

Shreya Agarwal

29 April 2021 9:16 AM GMT

  • Why Some States Got More Oxygen Than They Asked For, But Delhi Got Less? Delhi High Court Asks Centre

    The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked Centre's response regarding Delhi government's submissions with respect to differences in demanded and allocated amounts of various states. The Court has granted SG Mehta one day's time to respond and place it on record. The response has been sought after submissions were made before the Court stating that while Delhi is not getting the allocated supply,...

    The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked Centre's response regarding Delhi government's submissions with respect to differences in demanded and allocated amounts of various states. The Court has granted SG Mehta one day's time to respond and place it on record. 

    The response has been sought after submissions were made before the Court stating that while Delhi is not getting the allocated supply, MP and Maharashtra are getting more oxygen supply than was asked. 

    A division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli recorded GNCTD counsel Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra's submissions with respect to differences in demanded and allocated amounts of various states. 

    Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to recording of various submissions, saying that these may not be recorded as it would raise panic. However the Court asked Mehta to reply to the points through an affidavit. 

    "If you have the confidence in your responses, have the confidence to place it on record." the Bench noted

    Mehta further objected and stated that there are also states which have received lesser than what they demanded, including Gujarat which demanded 1000 MT, but received 975 MT.

    The Court clarified that they are only recording it as Mr Mehra's submissions and are giving the Centre a day to respond. It noted that the figures are government figures as of April 21st. 

    "By no means are we interested in getting for Delhi more than what's required at the cost of another state. However, if the submissions of Mr. Mehra are to be accepted, the Centre needs to explain the chart" the Bench clarified.

    Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao submitted that one thing that needs to be flagged is that Madhya Pradesh's allocation from certain plants can be re-diverted to Delhi, instead of getting from Rourkela. 

    He pointed out that Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been getting more supply than what they've asked for. 

    "Of course, Maharashtra may be because it has the largest number of cases.Also, you may be making n number of beds but without oxygen they're pointless." Rao said. 

    The Court then told Mehta that he needs to explain the MP situation mentioned by the amicus, where he said that MP us getting more supply than their allocation. 

    "You will have to explain, if one state has demanded x, and other y but the other is getting more you need to explain, why?" the Bench asked 

    Mehta responded by saying that if they are being given more it is because of a surge there. Also, the Centre is doing what it can to help Delhi but they are unable to pick up the allocated amount and Centre is helping the state. 

    "It is not NDA helping AAP but Centre helping the State. 90% of our time is spent in firefighting the Delhi situation." Mehta said. 

    Court again asked Mr. Mehta to explain why supply to  Delhi is still stuck at 490 MT. SG Mehta however said that it is not stuck at 480 MT, but is an ever changing figure.. 

    In response to Mehta's statement that the 480 MT supply to Delhi will increase and there is no need to panic, the Court stated that  the panic is because of the lack of resources on ground. 

    "It is a dynamic situation, things keep on changing. " Mehta said. 

    SG Mehta also asked Central government officer Mr. Goyal, to explain why MP was given more supply. The Court also asked him to share the figures. 

    Amicus Rao informed the Court that as of Apr 21, MP asked for 440 around MT, and got around 545 MT. 

    "Almost 25% more. We are not telling you to stop or give less supply there." Court said. 

    Rao shared figures for Maharashtra as well, which demanded about 1500 MT, and received about 1616 MT.

    The Court then questioned Mr Goyal, from Centre why Delhi is out of line with MP and Maharashtra. SG Mehta responded and stated that MP's population is 3 times more than Delhi's, and the past 3 weeks there was a huge surge there. 

    "Mr. Goyal, please divert MP's supply to Delhi. There will be some loss of lives in MP, but please divert it. " SG Mehta said.

    The Court responded to Mr. Mehta's submission and asked him to not get emotional, as facts and figures are being discussed. The Court further said that the situation is that the requirement of oxygen has gone up nearly 5 times in all states. 

    Rao informed the court that in one of the documents , probably an error of transplantation, Delhi's demand has been shown as 470 MT, and not 700 MT. With so much on the officer's mind, they may believe Delhi is getting 480 MT, more than its demand. 

    Mehta clarified that there may be some human errors, but the Centre, and the officers are making every effort to help in the best way possible.

    The Court has also asked the the DCP in coordination with the Delhi Govt to ensure distribution of cylinders and vials of Remdesivir as per need, clarifying that it should not be seized from individuals who have got it for their medical use.

    The observation was made in response to  issue regarding preservation of these cylinders and vials of Remdesivir by people. 

    The Court further noted that whenever any seizure is made of cylinders or medicine, the IOs should immediately inform the DCP. These articles must also be kept in refrigerated environment so they don't lose their efficacy.

    The Bench also examined the overlapping aspects of the Covid-19 matter before the Single Judge bench and before itself, recorded that to avoid divergent orders on the overlapping issues, a prayer has been made for recalling of the proceedings from the Single Judge bench. 

    The direction was passed after the Bench was  informed by the Counsels the division Bench is hearing concisely and precisely the same issues which are being heard by the Single Bench. 

    During the hearing today, the Court observed that  people from neighboring states are coming into Delhi, for better facilities, it being a national capital. They should not and better not be shunned.

    "There is a scramble, people are coming anywhere for oxygen - to be in the right place at the right time." The Court said. 

    Court then asked Mr Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi Government, about the stated of the 8 (oxygen plants) which were to be made functional. 

    In response to Mehra's request to take the Court through yesterday's order - that what was expected to be done and what's been done de hors the court's order, the Court stated that submissions in a tabulated format as were asked, have not been made. 

    "Yes My Lords but if court's orders can be bypassed by the Central and State Govts, what is the point of passing them?" Mehra remarked. 

    Mehra further stated that Court's order which read "Suggestions were to go (not verbally, but in writing) on tankers and reducing transport time, to the Central Govt, who had agreed to have the same examined" has not been done. He added that deflections have been made on the oxygen plants setting up point.

    Mehra stated that whatever he is saying is coming from the top bureaucratic brass. The Central govt has failed Delhi and the country, and has  just been skirting off any specific orders by the court, with personal reassurances that they will look into it

    "Please do not allow them to shift the goal post. I have never, Delhi govt, has never shirked off responsibility. We have been present, apologized where we have been wrong." 

    Mehra argued that there is a complete lack of sensitivity. This is not about getting oxygen from the air, the Centre can't just go on making their allocations on paper with no oxygen reaching Delhi. 

    "We are not going to be mute spectators merely because they are the Central Govt. Everyday Art.21 is being violated." Mehra Said. 

    At this point SG Mehta appearing for the Centre interjected and told Mehra that "There is no point being hysterical."

    Mehra submitted that the Delhi government had asked for 700 MT of oxygen and not even 490 MT has reached them till date.He informed the Court that they are augmenting 15000 more beds by next week and therefore would need another 280 MT. 

    Mehra urged the Court to pass an order, and not allow the Central government to get away with personal reassurances, because a single Law Officer cannot manage this alone.

    "We need oxygen and not paper orders. This is not rhetoric, as a state, non-manufacturing one, we need all the help we can. There are enough Good Samaritans going of their way to do everything they can for people they don't even know, but we need State to step in now." Mehra said. 

    Mehra submitted that it is scientifically proven that only oxygen can save Covid patients. He said that there is a need of the the following three figures: 

    1. What is India's oxygen generating capacity, as Centre has taken over all assets to deal with this pandemic?

    2.  What is the allocation amount to different states, it has been allocated by the Centre and rightly so, but what is the amount? We need to know this.

    3. What is it that every state has asked, and why is it that despite excess capacity, they have not been allocated what they've asked?

    "We can't be thinking as Delhi, Punjab, Haryana - this is the biggest problem that the country has ever faced - we need to think as India. I am sorry if I've hurt sentiments." Mehra said. 

    With regards to the PSA Plants, Mehra submitted that 2 are already operational, 2 were to be operational by 30th April, for the rest all permissions have been given already from the Delhi government. However the PWD had stepped in and said they need certain changes.

    "Today everybody needs oxygen plants, later he was deflected to another state. We need to look into this together, today if Delhi needs oxygen, please give it, if anyone else needs, please give it." Mehra added. 

    Rao further said that civil societies who are ready to set up oxygen generating plants can be looked at as refilling is not so much of a problem.

    He added that testing is an issue, but they don't have the real numbers. Also, some people may not need cylinders, as concentrators are enough and some people don't need either as basic care is enough

    "We can keep fighting about oxygen but that's not going to help till we get our act together." Rao said. 

    Rao apprised the Court that the problems being faced on ground are that there is an absolute lack of information, so if all the information could be collected at one place, about hospital beds, Remdesivir, etc people won't be running helter-skelter. Further if this information could be tabulated in one place zone-wise, it could ensure that people from Gurgaon aren't left running to Rohini.

    "We are passing through a crisis situation, so getting hysterical should be avoided. This, I'm telling myself more than anyone else." Tushar Mehta said. 

    Mehta appearing for Centre stated that the they have augmented supply of oxygen from wherever possible. Suppose there is a huge, unprecedented surge which is being experienced  today, then that will have to be dealt with as well. 

    Central Govt Officer Piyush Goyal joins informed that problem regarding the containers was mentioned, and on the request of Delhi govt, Centre has imported containers. 4 big containers have been brought, alongwith others - they were supposed to land on Apr 27.  He added that he will take instructions as to whether they have landed or not. 

    "Hospitals are not taking admissions, people are dying. Already lives are lost. We don't know you're going to manage it, that's your problem. You have to. We don't want to get into which state raised what demand." the Bench said. 

    Edited by Srishti Ojha

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