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Ensure oxygen transport is unhindered, use criminal action if required: Delhi HC tells Centre

Delhi High Court says governments must 'beg, borrow or steal' to ensure protection of fundamental emergency. Centre assures there will be unobstructed supply of oxygen to Delhi.

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the central government to ensure unhindered transportation of oxygen tankers across state lines along with “special corridors”, and warned criminal action against those obstructing oxygen supply.

A bench comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing a petition filed by the Saroj Super Specialty Hospital in Rohini demanding oxygen supply.

“We direct that the Central Govt to ensure allocation takes place as planned and transportation of the tankers takes place unhindered. Adequate security to be provided to lorries transporting the oxygen, to move without obstruction,” the HC bench said in its order.

“We direct that non-compliance will invite criminal action,” it added.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that while the total allocation of oxygen for Delhi has gone up, 80-100 MT is all it has received because the allocation has been made from different plants across the country.

He informed the court that they were receiving distress calls of oxygen supply running out, as a consequence.

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court about an order passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005 Thursday, directing all states and union territories to ensure smooth transportation of oxygen.

The order bars any restriction on movement of medical oxygen between states. It also prohibits any restrictions on oxygen manufacturers and also asks them not to limit oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the states or UTs in which they are located.

Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the government, has also been prohibited.

SG Mehta also assured the court that the central government shall ensure the supply of 480 MT of oxygen to Delhi, as allocated to it.

Also read: ‘Kept pumping brother’s chest for 1.5 hrs’: Man recounts horror that followed Nashik oxygen leak

‘Haryana hampering transport of oxygen to Delhi’

Mehra noted that local authorities in Panipat, Haryana were obstructing transport of oxygen from the Air Liquidae plant.

The senior advocate also referred to a tweet by Dr Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Group, in which she had said that the Haryana Police was not allowing oxygen tankers outside the state.

“An oxygen tanker is outside the gate of Air Liquide Panipat plant at IOCL and he is not being allowed inside. Haryana police are stopping it & not letting the oxygen out of Haryana. Need urgent intervention!!” Reddy had tweeted.

Therefore, the court directed the authorities concerned to ensure strict compliance with the order passed under the Disaster Management Act and directed that non-compliance will invite criminal action.

The court was also informed of the Supreme Court taking suo motu cognisance of the issues related to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

However, the high court said that it will go ahead with the hearing till the apex court issues an order stopping the hearing.

Also read: Modi govt had a year to prepare for 2nd Covid wave. Now, patients don’t have oxygen to breathe

‘Beg, borrow or steal’

At a special sitting late Wednesday, the same HC bench comprising Justices Sanghi and Palli had heard an urgent plea by Balaji Medical and Research Centre seeking replenishment of oxygen supply in Max Hospitals run by the centre across the Delhi-NCR region.

The court had then ordered the Centre to ensure that oxygen supplies reach the hospital without delay. The matter was taken up again at around 9.20pm when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that oxygen supply was on its way to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that movement of oxygen tankers to Delhi was being obstructed at the capital’s border with Haryana. Mehra, in fact, even requested paramilitary assistance for transportation to Delhi.

However, the central government assured the court that there will be unobstructed supply of oxygen to Delhi. The court was also told that the allotted quantity of oxygen for Delhi had been increased from 370 MT to 480 MT.

“Citizens can only fall back on the State. So you have to beg, borrow or steal and ensure the protection of fundamental emergency,” Justice Sanghi had remarked.

The bench had urged the Centre to explore all available means to manage the crisis.

Also read: Delhi hospitals gasp as Haryana refuses to share oxygen, then Centre steps in to resolve row


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