The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said it was “shocked and dismayed” to see that the Centre does not seem to be to mindful of the “extremely urgent” need of medical oxygen in the country to treat Covid-19 patients as a second wave of the pandemic overstretched India’s healthcare system, Bar and Bench reported.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Max Hospitals seeking urgent help to tide over the oxygen shortage it was facing in six of its hospitals in the Capital. Earlier on Wednesday, the hospital had released a statement saying they had only two hours of oxygen left at Max Shalimar Bagh and three hours at Max Patparganj. The two hospitals between them have over 500 Covid-19 patients.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli wondered how the government was “so oblivious to the ground reality” that it had still not taken enough steps to address the acute shortages.

Yesterday we were told you were trying to import [oxygen]. What happened to that?” the court said, referring to its Tuesday’s order to the Centre to impose an immediate ban on the industrial use of oxygen. “You’ve not even thought in that direction.”

“Human lives are not that important for the State [Union government] it means,” the court said.

India’s healthcare infrastructure is bursting at the seams as the country reports thousands of new coronavirus cases every day. This has led to a chronic shortage of oxygen supplies, beds and timely medical care.

During the hearing, the Delhi High Court said that it was the Centre’s responsibility to protect the right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require oxygen and to supply the same “by whatever means it is required”.

“If necessary, Centre should divert entire supply from industries, particularly steel and petroleum,” the court said. “Why is the government not waking up to the reality? We can’t have people die...”

The bench added that the central government should consider ways and means of transporting oxygen from plants by either creating a dedicated corridor – so that the supply lines are not affected – or airlifting the same.

“The Centre has all the power and resources at their command,” the High Court said. “Even Tata is supplying [oxygen]...This is the height of greed if we can say that. There is no humanity left or what?”

The court told the Centre that it was concerned about the situation across India, and not just Delhi, NDTV reported. “We want to know what the Central government is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India,” the bench said. “The citizen can only fall back on the state. It is the responsibility of the government. Beg, borrow or steal, it is your job”.

The Delhi High Court then ordered the central government to ensure that six Max hospitals in the Capital get urgent supply of oxygen. “We direct Centre to provide safe that such supplies are not obstructed for any reason whatsoever,” it said. “Hell will break loose [if oxygen is not supplied].”

An unidentified official told India Today that the Air Force has airlifted oxygen containers from Bengaluru to deliver them to Covid care centres in Delhi.

The IAF also said in a tweet that was it airlifting medical personnel and critical equipment for hospitals across the country.