Over the past few days, the Delhi High Court has been hearing several pleas concerning COVID-19 and the shortage of oxygen in the Indian capital. The pleas are being heard by a bench of Justices, Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the government, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, why states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were given more oxygen than they asked for whereas Delhi got less than it wanted.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said that although the national capital’s requirement was 700 metric tons (MT) per day, it was allocated a range of between 480 and 490MT and the Central government has not increased it.
“Madhya Pradesh was allocated 540MT oxygen although it requested 445MT. Maharashtra was allocated 1661MT although its requirement was 1,500MT,” Mehta said.
A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli observed: “We are not saying people in other parts of the country should die. But if the demand of a particular state is x, then why did you give it x+y? Why don’t you give the y to Delhi?”
The court said it won’t make any statements and asked the Central government to reply to the allegations made against them.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, asked the court if the details regarding the oxygen demand and supply need to be recorded in the order.
“We will respond to the court’s query and will give the reasons for giving more oxygen to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. However, there are other states, including Gujarat, which have been allocated less than their demand,” Mehta stated.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Meanwhile during the hearing, the High Court also ordered Delhi Police to release oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir, a jab used on patients suffering severely from COVID-19 – which they had seized from individuals so that it could be used in the treatment of COVID-19.
“The police should not seize cylinders from individuals as they may have bought them at an exorbitant price in an emergency situation,” the court said, adding, “whenever any seizure is made, the [investigating officers] should immediately inform the [deputy commissioners] and also ascertain the authenticity of the medicine. The medicine should also be immediately put in a refrigerated environment. It goes without saying that Delhi Police would be bound to conduct an investigation with the cooperation of the public at large,” the court concluded.
“Essential medicines and oxygen cylinders cannot be kept as ‘case properties’ and instead should be put back into circulation, the court added.