End oxygen deficit by May 3, set up buffer stock: Supreme Court tells Centre

A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

The Supreme Court, in an order released late on Sunday, directed the Centre to ensure that the deficit of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients in the national capital should be rectified on or before the midnight of May 3.

A Special Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud ordered the Centre to act “in collaboration” with States to “prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralise the location of the emergency stocks”.

“The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and is to be replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the States,” ordered the Supreme Court in a 64-page order dated April 30, but published on May 2.

The order was reserved on Friday.

“The Central Government and State Governments shall notify all Chief Secretaries/ Directors General of Police/ Commissioners of Police that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/ delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this Court. The Registrar (Judicial) is also directed to place a copy of this order before all District Magistrates in the country,” the Supreme Court Bench, also comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, said, directed against any gag on the use of social media to voice grievances about short supply of life-saving oxygen, drugs and hospitalisation.

“In these trying times, those desperately seeking help for their loved ones on these platforms should not have their misery compounded through the actions of the State and its instrumentalities. Further, there are two more crucial reasons why such a clampdown on information sharing must be absolutely stopped immediately... Sharing information widely is in itself an important tool in combating public tragedies, like the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the court highlighted.

Admissions norms

The court gave the Centre 14 days to formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals which shall be followed by all State governments.

“Till the formulation of such a policy by the Central Government, no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any State/UT for lack of local residential proof of that State/UT or even in the absence of identity proof,” the order dictated.

The court ordered the Centre to revisit its initiatives and protocols, including on the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, availability of essential drugs at affordable prices and respond on all the other issues highlighted in this order before the next date of the hearing, that is, May 10.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 8:25:54 PM |

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