Issuing unusually strong strictures on the Modi government and private industries, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the Centre to “forthwith" provide oxygen by whatever means to hospitals here facing a shortage of the gas in treating serious COVID-19 patients, observing it seems human life is not important for the state. “You are not exploring all avenues to augment oxygen supply. Beg, borrow or steal," the court told the Centre and asked why is it not waking up to the gravity of the emergency situation. It also warned that certainly, all hell will break loose with the stoppage of medical oxygen to the hospitals.
The court was conducting an urgent hearing on a public holiday on a plea filed by Balaji Medical and Research Centre, which owns and runs various hospitals in the name of Max, stating that if the supply of oxygen is not replenished on an immediate basis, the lives of the patients who are critical and on oxygen support will be endangered. Do you want to see thousands of people dying in the country?" a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli asked, as it came down heavily on the Centre for not diverting sufficient oxygen supply from industries to hospitals.
During the extraordinary hearing, the court said the responsibility to ensure oxygen supply lay squarely on the Central government’s shoulders and if necessary, entire supply of oxygen to industries including steel and petroleum can be diverted for medical usage. “Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals running out of oxygen but steel plants are running," the court said and added how the government can be so oblivious of the reality.
There is no sense of humanity left or what? This is really really ridiculous and shocking. You are concerned about industries when people are dying. It an emergency you should realize. It seems human life is not important for the state. The court directed the Central government to protect the fundamental right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require medical oxygen and to supply the same by whatever means it is required.
Our concern is not just for Delhi, we want to know what the Central government is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India, it said and added, what is the Central government doing. If this is the situation in Delhi, we are sure it is the same in other states. Do you want to see thousands of people dying in the country? Is running steel plants so important and urgent? the bench said and added that today, the country is facing an emergency situation where hospitals are short of oxygen which is also going to end in few hours.
The court said the steel and petrochemical industries are oxygen guzzlers and diverting oxygen from there can meet the requirements of hospitals. “If Tatas can divert oxygen they are generating for their steel plants to medical use, why can’t others? This is the height of greed. Is there no sense of humanity left or not." The court said transportation of oxygen from the place of production to the place of supply is also a challenge and time-consuming activity as it is done only through highways in the normal course.
The Central government shall consider ways and means for transportation of oxygen either by creating a dedicated corridor so that the supply lines are not obstructed or even airlift it from the place of production to the place of usage, it said. The court said heavens are not going to fall if the industries, including steel and petroleum, run on lower capacity till oxygen is imported.
It said certainly all hell will break loose with the stoppage of medical oxygen for hospitals. We are constrained to direct the Centre to forthwith implement this order and take over supply of oxygen from steel plants and if necessary also from the petroleum plants, to supply it to hospitals.
The court said such industries will have to stop their productions till the situation in hospitals improves and directed them to increase their oxygen production generated by them and give it to Centre for supply in other states for medical use. The petition said there are six Max hospitals in the national capital and NCR and are treating 1,400 COVID-19 patients.
The bench was informed by the counsel for M/s Inox, which supplies oxygen to hospitals in Delhi, that certain quantity is on its way from a UP plant to Max Hospital, Patparganj here and will reach in two hours. On the apprehension that there could be some obstructions and law and order problem, the court directed the Centre that a safe passage be provided to oxygen supply from the place of production to the place of supply.