The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre why it was waiting till April 22 to ban the use of oxygen in industries amid a severe shortage in the national Capital, reported Bar and Bench. The court then directed the Centre to implement the ban immediately, saying “any delay will lead to loss of precious lives”.
In the last few days, the Delhi government has flagged an acute shortage of oxygen in the city’s hospitals. Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia on Tuesday evening released a list of government and private hospitals, highlighting that there were only hours of oxygen remaining in most facilities.
The court on Tuesday asked the Centre why the oxygen supplies were not being redirected from industries to tackle the severe shortage in the city. “Will you tell the patients from today to wait for two days,” a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli asked. The court made the remarks as it resumed a hearing from Monday on the Covid-19 situation in the Capital.
Earlier on Tuesday, the court had said: “Industries can wait. Patients cannot. Human lives are at stake.”
The Delhi High Court bench also noted the Centre’s submission that steel plants produce a lot of oxygen and asked whether the government was getting supplies from them. “I think the steel and petroleum industries are the real guzzlers – which is why they are producing and consuming more oxygen – because if people keep dying the way they are dying, what is the point of producing more for the economy?” Justice Sanghi asked, according to Live Law.
The High Court said that valuable time was being lost, noting that there had been a dip in Covid-19 vaccinations, reported Bar and Bench. The court attributed this problem to either a shortage of vaccines or beneficiaries being unwilling to take the shots.
“Every day we are losing young lives...why should we waste even one shot?” the court said. Why should we not have the sense of urgency? There should be a list of people to say that now you come and take it...whoever is willing to take it.”
The court also pointed out that in the United States, if no one was reporting for the vaccinations, the beneficiaries were being contacted to take the shots. “Why can’t you in that app [CoWin] have a category of below 45 volunteering to get it done so that vaccines are not wasted?” the court said, according to the legal news portal.
The court also asked the Centre to be strict against those hoarding medication or indulging in black marketing amid a shortage.
Contempt notice to oxygen firm
The High Court said it had been informed that Delhi was running out of oxygen supplies. It also issued a contempt notice against oxygen firm Inox for not following its orders.
The court had on Monday directed Inox not to divert its supplies marked for Delhi to any other state. But the Delhi government informed the bench on Tuesday that not a single metric tonne of oxygen had reached the Capital, reported Live Law.
Meanwhile, during the hearing on Monday, the High Court had asked the central and Delhi governments to file an affidavit disclosing details on beds in the Capital. The governments were asked to submit the data by Tuesday. However, on Tuesday, the bench extended the time till Wednesday to file the affidavit and said the court will monitor the case on a daily basis.
Oxygen supply shortage
The Centre on Sunday announced that supply of oxygen for industrial purposes will be prohibited from April 22 in order to divert the stock for medical use.
Nine industries – including pharmaceutical, nuclear energy facilities, food and water purification and oxygen cylinder manufacturers – were exempted on the prohibition on industrial use of oxygen.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Sunday alleged that the Centre had redirected the city’s oxygen quota to other states.
The national Capital went under a six-day lockdown from 10 pm on Monday due the massive surge in Covid-19 cases. Kejriwal had said that the time would be utilised to make arrangements for oxygen, medicines and hospital beds.
The Capital registered 23,686 new coronavirus cases on Monday evening, taking its total count of infections since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 to 8,77,146. The Capital’s toll rose to 12,361 as 240 more deaths were recorded in the last day.