Supreme Court of India.

SC stays Delhi HC’s contempt notice to Centre; asks for government plan regarding oxygen allocation for Delhi

THE Supreme Court Wednesday stayed the Delhi High Court’s order asking the Central Government to show cause why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against it for failing to comply with the court’s direction to allocate 700MT oxygen to Delhi.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, however, directed the Centre to place before it by tomorrow morning a comprehensive plan indicating the manner in which the direction for the allocation of 700 MT of medical oxygen to Delhi would be complied with.

It said it was not expedient at this stage to take recourse to the coercive arm of the law by invoking the contempt jurisdiction against the two officials of the Central Government and an opportunity should be granted to them to place before the court a plan specifically indicating the manner in which the requirement of the NCT of Delhi of 700 MT in terms of the order of the court dated 30 April 2021 will be complied with.

The bench directed the Centre that its plan should indicate 1) Sources of supply; 2) Provisions for transportation; and 3) All other logistical arrangements necessary to ensure the fulfilment of the requirement of Delhi.

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The court, for this purpose, directed that the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Health of Delhi Government and the officials of the Central government hold a meeting.

Justifying its interference in the High Court’s order, the top court said the recourse to the contempt jurisdiction against two officers (one of whom, Ms Dawra, has tested COVID-19 positive but continues to attend to her duties while in isolation) will not in itself resolve the problem which is confronting Delhi.

“At this stage, when the country is faced with a serious pandemic, the effort of the court must be to facilitate problem-solving by the active engagement and cooperation of all stakeholders”, the court said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that based on an expert group consisting of (i) Dr V K Paul, Member of the NITI Aayog; (ii) Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS; (iii) Director General of ICMR; and (iv) Director General of Health Services for computing the requirement of oxygen across India on a rational basis, the oxygen requirement would be calculated on the following basis: (i) For 50% of non-ICU beds at the rate of 10 litres per minute; (ii) For 100% of ICU beds at the rate of 24 litres per minute.

Also Read: SC issues directions to Centre on managing Covid19 crisis; asks it to rectify oxygen deficit, formulate national policy of hospital admissions; suggests a lockdown

On this basis, SG Mehta submitted that the optimal demand of NCT of Delhi should be in the range of 415.43 MT/day and that the demand of 700 MT of LMO per day, as claimed, appeared to be contrary to its optimal requirements.

In other words, it was argued by SG Mehta that increasing the oxygen allocation to 700 MT would only result in the reduction of allocation to another critically affected area of the country; the allocation had to be determined using scientific rationale.

Click here to read the order