“Brief States on basis for vaccine, oxygen allocations”

The Madras High Court on Wednesday advised the Centre to disclose the basis on which it had been allocating COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, oxygen and the like to various States and Union Territories fighting the raging second wave of the pandemic.

The court felt that the States might stop complaining of discrimination in allotment if the Centre explained to them the rationale behind the allocation.

First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the suggestion to Additional Solicitor General (ASG) R. Sankaranarayanan during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition, taken up by the court suo motu, to monitor the steps being taken by the State government as well as the Centre to curtail the spread of the virus and flatten the COVID-19 curve.

T.N.’s allocation

During the course of the hearing, senior counsel P. Wilson, also a Rajya Sabha member representing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said all five southern States had agreed to the allotment of 500 tonnes of oxygen per day to Tamil Nadu. Nevertheless, the Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGS) in the Centre was not clearing the allocation citing some court cases that had no relevance whatsoever to Tamil Nadu.

Claiming that the State was running out of oxygen, he urged the court to direct the ASG to get instructions from the EGS by Thursday. Mr. Sankaranarayanan agreed to ascertain the status on allocation to the State. He, however, informed the court that the Centre had already allotted 1,35,500 vials of Remedesivir to Tamil Nadu for the block period between April 21 and May 9.

When Justice Ramamoorthy wanted to know the basis for the allocations, the ASG said they were based on the number of active COVID-19 cases in every State. “For instance, the number of positive cases is more in Maharashtra, so it is allotted more oxygen,” the law officer said. The judge then suggested that the rationale behind the allocation must be publicised.

Sterlite plant

On his part, the Chief Justice wanted to know by when the Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi would start producing medical oxygen. He said the oxygen produced in the plant might benefit all of India. “The virus does not choose Tamil Nadu, give Andhra an escape and then choose Odisha and give Bengal an escape. The virus goes for anyone that it hits. It does not differentiate. We are one country. We must all be together. We must cooperate,” he said.

The Chief Justice went on to state: “We have to share our resources. There’s no point in Delhi cornering everything for itself or Tamil Nadu or West Bengal for themselves. We are one country. We have to equitably share it, and there comes the role of the Central Government. We hope that the Central Government does it on rational and reasonable considerations and on no other consideration.”

Broaching the subject of foreign aid, the Chief Justice said: “Mr. Additional Solicitor General, a lot of aid has come in from Germany, the U.S., the European Union, and even from small countries like Romania, and they appear to be stuck in airports or ports. There should be some clarity. If the aid is there and if it is distributed as quickly as possible without there being any delay, it will be good. It is only for saving lives.”

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 1:20:12 PM |

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