The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking an inquiry into shortage of oxygen supply during the second wave of the coronavirus in April-May and rebuked the petitioner for filing the application, reported Bar and Bench.
“It is very easy to criticise the court or government without being on the hot seat,” said Justice DY Chandrachud. “The country is dealing with a crisis. We must be wary of demoralising authorities who are handling this crisis.”
A bench, also comprising Justice BV Nagarathna, was hearing a petition filed by a man named Naresh Kumar who had sought a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the oxygen deficit and problems related to distribution of the gas to states during the second Covid wave.
Many states had experienced extreme shortages of oxygen and other facilities such as hospital beds and medical supplies, forcing citizens to take to social media to seek help then.
At its peak in May, daily Covid-19 cases had touched the 4-lakh mark and deaths were being reported in thousands each day. A government study had found that the Delta variant of the coronavirus was responsible for the second wave.
The Supreme Court had then formed a 12-member national task force to streamline oxygen allocation and to ensure that essential drugs and medicines are available to medical facilities.
During Monday’s hearing, the bench noted that it had already set up a task force to tackle the problem. The court said that it was not appropriate to conduct a parallel inquiry by forming a commission, reported Live Law.
“We cannot encroach upon the executive domain,” the court told the petitioner.
On the matter of seeking an inquiry led by the CBI, the bench said that the petitioner should have first sought remedies under the Code of Criminal Procedure before filing an application under Article 32, or the right to move the Supreme Court.
Advocate Medhanshu Tripathi, appearing for Kumar, submitted that the petitioner had suffered due to lack of oxygen. Tripathi told the court that citizens were concerned about the second wave as many people had died during that time.
The advocate also said that an inquiry would help in understanding where the fault lie.
The bench, however, dismissed Tripathi’s submissions. “I don’t think a retired judge headed commissions of enquiry can do something which the national task force cannot do,” the court said. “These are eminent doctors [who are part of the task force].”
It added: “Even the most developed nations of world with a developed infrastructure in terms of health, are struggling to deal with pandemic... At this point of time, do we do a legal post mortem or do we do something positive which we have done in setting up of a task force.”