The Supreme Court on Friday refused to intervene with the Karnataka High Court judgement directing the Centre to increase the daily medical oxygen allocation for the state from 965 metric tonnes to 1,200, reported PTI.
A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said that the High Court’s May 5 order was “well calibrated, deliberated and [a] judicious exercise of power”.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Centre’s plea, moved on Thursday, seeking a stay on the Karnataka High Court’s order. The Supreme Court refused to accept the Centre’s argument that if every High Court started passing similar orders on oxygen supplies, it would disrupt the supply chain.
“Every state needs it [oxygen], but my concern is only with the High Court directing it,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, said. “If every High Court starts doing it, it will be a problem.”
However, the Supreme Court said that the High Court order was not issued in a reckless way as it was based on the state government’s projection of oxygen supplies – a minimum of 1,162 metric tonnes daily.
“We will not interfere with this today,” the Supreme Court said, according to Bar and Bench. “If it was a breach of executive power etc then we would have considered. We have told you that a committee is being formed but till then we cannot ask High courts to shut their eyes to it.”
Justice Shah also asked the Centre why it had allocated a certain amount of oxygen to the state when it cannot be provided within 48 hours. To this, the solicitor general said that some of the quota of oxygen was being brought in from far-off places.
“With a source that is not unlimited we [Centre] are trying our best,” Mehta said, reported Bar and Bench. “As a lawyer I feel if High Courts are allowed to intervene like this then it would hamper the pandemic management. There will be nothing but chaos.”
Following this, Justice Chandrachud said that the humanitarian aspect of the order of the High Courts would also have to be considered. “The judges have seen deaths at Kalburgi [district] and other places,” the judge said. “Please understand the human aspect. We want to avoid the grave injustice in the meanwhile. We are looking at the pan-India issue and order will be uploaded.”
India on Friday logged 4,14,188 new coronavirus cases, registering another highest single-day infection count, according to government data. The overall case count climbed to 2,14,91,598 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the third time since May 1 when more than four lakh cases were recorded in a day in the country.
Hospitals across India are facing an acute shortage of medical oxygen as the country experiences an unrelenting second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last few weeks, several High Courts have taken up petitions, sometimes of their own accord, relating to the government’s inadequate response to the crisis, with a special focus on supply of oxygen to hospitals and availability of antiviral drugs for Covid-19 patients.