The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of problems of oxygen and drug supply to coronavirus patients, precipitated by a massive second wave of the pandemic that has hit India, Live Law reported.

The court issued a notice to the Centre and sought a “national plan” from it, hours after India set a grave new milestone by recording 3.14 lakh new coronavirus cases – the world’s highest single-day rise in infections since the virus surfaced in China last year.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justice Ravindra Bhat said that at least six High Courts are hearing cases related to the management of the pandemic. The court directed that the cases pending before the High Courts be withdrawn as it will create confusion.

“We as a court wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues,” Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. “We find that there are six High Courts Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta are exercising jurisdiction in best interest. We appreciate that. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources.”

The Supreme Court said it was taking cognisance of matters related to supply of oxygen, essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and the power of state government’s to impose lockdown.

Mehta asked if the Supreme Court was proposing to stay the proceedings in the High Courts. Bobde said he will “withdraw certain issues” from the High Courts to the Supreme Court. “You may go ahead and present your plan [before the High Courts]. It is not to supersede any order [of High Court] as of now,” Justice Bhat told the solicitor general.

The chief justice, however, added, “May be it is better to report directly to the Supreme Court. We will see that later.”

Senior Advocate Harish Salve has been appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the case. The matter will be heard on Friday.

Mehta said he will inform the High Courts that Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the matters related to management of the pandemic.

High Courts rebuking their states

The Delhi High Court was scheduled to take up problems related to oxygen supply in the national Capital at 3 pm.

A day earlier, the court had severely criticised the Centre for not addressing the oxygen shortage problem. “We want you to undertake maximum procurement from all sources,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said at a special hearing after 9.20 pm on Wednesday. “Beg, borrow, steal, whatever, you have to provide [oxygen]. You have plenary sovereign power. No industry will say no to you. You must take over.”

Meanwhile, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court also held a special hearing at 8 pm on Wednesday, Live Law reported. The court took strong exception to the health ministry’s direction to cut down the oxygen supply to Maharashtra, which is the worst-hit state during the pandemic. It said that this communication from the Centre has “hit Maharashtra as a bolt from the blue”.

The court directed that oxygen supply should continue as before and emphasised that there should be no shortage.

The Nagpur bench also came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for its “extremely callous” behaviour in procuring and allocating antiviral drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients in critical condition, PTI reported.

On Tuesday, the Gujarat High Court asked the Vijay Rupani-led state government why many Covid-19 patients were unable to get admitted to hospitals if there were enough beds available. Last week, the court had questioned its official data on the number of coronavirus cases being reported.

The Telangana High Court on Monday had given a 48-hour ultimatum to the state government to decide whether it will impose a lockdown to contain the rise in Covid-19 cases. A day later, the state government imposed a night curfew till April 30.

Besides this, the Allahabad High Court on Monday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and imposed a lockdown in Lucknow, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Kanpur and Gorakhpur till April 26. However, the state government had refused to follow the order and moved the Supreme Court against it. The Supreme Court stayed the High Court order, but directed the state government to report to the High Court the steps taken so far to deal with the pandemic and the measures the Adityanath-led government will take within one week.