New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the central government why several states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were allocated more liquid oxygen than they asked for while Delhi was allocated “far less than its requirement”.
The bench comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli asked the Narendra Modi government to respond to this during its day-to-day hearing on petitions and applications filed on various aspects of Covid management in Delhi, including oxygen supply and transport, black marketing and hoarding of supplies, and RT-PCR testing.
In its order, the court said that according to data submitted by the Delhi government, the national capital has 16,272 non-ICU beds in large hospitals with more than 100 beds.
These hospitals, it noted, require around 304 MTs of liquid oxygen. Other small hospitals and nursing homes with less than 100 beds require around 120 MTs of liquid oxygen, it said. Furthermore, Delhi currently has 4,866 ICU beds, which require around 272 MTs of liquid oxygen. As a result, the oxygen demand for Delhi in total is around 700 MTs.
Additionally, senior advocate Rahul Mehra appearing for the Delhi government told the court that due to the surge of cases in the capital, the Delhi government is making arrangements to add another 15,000 non-ICU beds, which would require another 280 MTs of liquid oxygen, and another 1,200 ICU beds as well.
This, he said, will take the liquid oxygen demand in Delhi to 976-1,000 MTs.
However, amicus curiae Rajshekhar Rao referred to the oxygen allocations made to various states by the central government and specifically pointed out that Madhya Pradesh asked for 445 MTs of oxygen but was allotted 543 MTs while Maharashtra asked for 1,500 MTs and was allotted 1,661 MTs liquid oxygen.
“It is further argued that similar is the position with regard to the allotment of liquid oxygen to several other states as opposed to their projected demand,” the court noted.
It then recorded that while originally Delhi’s demand was around 700 MTs, it was only allocated around 480-490 MTs of liquid oxygen.
While the court noted this in the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre objected to such observations and said that “eventually, it (such an order) might create panic”.
Mehta also asked if it was “justifiable” to make such a comparison between states.
The court, however, went on to demand a response from the Centre, while clarifying, “We make it clear that by no means are we interested in securing for NCT of Delhi oxygen more than what is required, and that too at the cost of any other State or UT. However if the submissions of Mehra and amicus are to be accepted, it would appear that the central government needs to explain the aforesaid aspect for which we have granted time.”
Release seized remdesivir: Delhi HC
The court also asked the police not to seize antiviral drug remdesivir and oxygen cylinders from individuals who acquired them at an exorbitant price for medical use in an emergency situation.
The court directed the police to release the drug and oxygen cylinders as soon as it is seized from hoarders and black marketeers, ordering, “Whenever any seizure is made, the IOs (investigating officers) should immediately inform the DC (district collector)…These articles must also be kept in refrigerated environment so they don’t lose their efficacy.”
This was after the Delhi government told the court that as of 27 April, around 279 vials of remdesivir had been seized by the Delhi Police.
The order was passed to ensure that the seized medicine does not remain as case property and does not lose its effectiveness but in turn can be administered to the patients in need.
(Edited by Rachel John)