Govt may be blind, not court; whole nation crying for oxygen: HC lashes Centre

NEW DELHI, 4 May: People’s lives are at stake and the government may be blind but not the court, the Delhi High Court lashed out on Tuesday when the Centre’s law officer said it should not be emotional about shortage of oxygen in the national capital for treating Covid-19 patients.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli observed that the whole nation is crying for oxygen today, not only Delhi but other states also.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, said they are going to file a compliance report on the Supreme Court’s 30 April order and not get into whether it is to supply 700 metric tonnes (mt) of oxygen per day to Delhi or fulfill the deficit demand.

Sharma said 433 mt oxygen reached Delhi on the midnight of Monday and another 307 mt came on Tuesday morning and they expect that by evening there shall be fair enough oxygen.

When senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, said the Centre has to provide 590 mt oxygen to Delhi and with the supply of 420 mt, people are dying here.

Sharma shot back, “Let us not go into the rhetoric that people are dying.”

That annoyed the bench, which said, “It is only rhetoric and not a fact? Sorry, Mr Sharma, we do not appreciate this. This is so unfortunate.”

When Sharma said “let us not get emotional,” the bench said, “When people die, it is an emotional matter. People’s lives are at stake. You may be blind, we are not. How can you be so insensitive?”

While discussing the issue of fully utilizing the tankers’ existing fleet, the bench said, “What you are planning and getting is all in future. Is it one week or two weeks, we don’t know. The whole nation is crying for oxygen today, not only Delhi but other states also,” and suggested including more experts and IIM brains in the empowered group.

During the hearing, the court was informed by amicus curiae and senior advocate Raj Shekhar Rao that if storage of oxygen is created here, there will be less pressure on the supplies and the Centre shall consider diverting from Maharashtra where the current demand was less.

The bench asked the Centre to consider it and inform the court and said that if the demand is less in Maharashtra and shortfall in consumption, some oxygen can be temporarily diverted to Delhi to create reserve.

Sharma said the government would look into this “and not only from Maharashtra but also from other places where there is a dip in oxygen demand, it can come to Delhi.”

He also said efforts are being made to increase oxygen supply to Delhi, and more tankers are being sent here. (PTI)