Citing the success of Mumbai’s BMC, in handling the pandemic situation in the city, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to hold a meeting with municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to adopt measures in Delhi.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed a Delhi High Court contempt notice to the Centre for failure to implement an order on immediate supply of full quota of oxygen to the Capital, saying exercising powers under contempt jurisdiction “will not solve the problems” faced by the National Capital, LiveLaw reported.
The stay, however, will not restrain the High Court from monitoring the COVID-19 management-related issues, the Supreme Court Bench, comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and MR Shah, observed.
The apex court on Wednesday was hearing the Centre’s appeal against Delhi High Court’s Tuesday order of issuing contempt notice and seeking the personal appearance of its officials for non-compliance with the directions on supply of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.
Citing the success of Mumbai’s civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in handling the pandemic situation in Mumbai, the apex court asked the Centre to hold a meeting with municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to adopt measures in Delhi.
“What are they doing, how are they managing…I understand that Maharashtra also produces oxygen, which Delhi can’t do,” Justice Chandrachud said. “If you draw from experience and figure out how the holding corporations can be done in Delhi…Then we will have a module for Delhi in place based on the successful model in Bombay, which is a large metropolis.”
SC’s remarks come a day after Delhi High Court’s issued a show-cause notice to the Centre, asking it to explain why a contempt action should not be initiated against it in connection with oxygen shortages.
A special bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said that there should be cooperation as the lives of people are at stake. “Putting officers in jail will not bring oxygen to the city, let’s ensure lives are saved,” the apex court said in its observations, asking the Centre how much oxygen was allocated to the National Capital in the last three days.
The top court also directed that a meeting be held between officials of the Centre and Delhi government by this evening to discuss various aspects of augmenting the oxygen supply to the National Capital.
“This is an all-India pandemic situation and we will have to find ways to ensure oxygen supply to the National Capital as we are answerable to the people of Delhi,” it said.
“We are also in Delhi. We are helpless and have been on phone. We can imagine what citizens are going through,” Justice Chandrachud said, adding that his office is hearing cries from people including lawyers seeking help.
The apex court ordered the Centre to place before it by 10:30 am tomorrow morning, a “comprehensive plan” to ensure that Delhi received its quota of 700 metric tonnes of oxygen. “We do not want contempt proceedings. We want action on the ground,” the court said.
When the Central government said Delhi can manage with 500 tonnes of the gas, the court disagreed saying its own orders were for 700 tonnes and that the 550 tonnes that the city was getting now won’t solve the problem.
The Centre informed the court that both the state and Union governments were “doing their best”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehra told the Bench that officers of the Delhi government were working overnight and “shoulder to shoulder” with the Centre, according to Bar and Bench. But the solicitor general said a pan-Indian solution was needed as allocation of oxygen “cannot be on sweet will of the Centre or states”.
“We are in the process of (allocating) 700 metric tonnes (of oxygen),” Mehta said. “Yesterday [on May 4] we could reach 585 tonnes. The allotted quantity was 590, but we stretched.”
SG: we are in the process of procuring 700 MT for Delhi. Yesterday we reached 585 MT. Allotted was 590 MT.
Justice Shah: 700 or 590 is for what duration
SG Mehta: 24 hours
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 5, 2021
Justice MR Shah, who was part of the bench, asked for how long this allocated quantity of oxygen will last. Mehta said the oxygen supply will help for 24 hours.
The court sought to know what the government’s plan was to resolve the crisis. “Nobody can dispute that this is not a national pandemic, that people are not dying, that the central government is not doing anything,” Shah said. “If you get oxygen from other states, they will also be needing it. It won’t be fair to them. What is your plan for distribution?”
Mehta in reply informed the apex court about the Centre’s formula, which was applicable for the entire country. “Every state has demanded more, but the allocation is based on this formula.”
However, the bench led by Justice Chandrachud sought to know if such a formula could be universally applicable. “The formula is based on assumptions,” he added. “What’s happening in Odisha may be very different from the state of the pandemic in Maharashtra or Delhi.”
Justice Chandrachud: we are not sure if the calculation is scientific. we need to know the basis of computing needs for every state is scientific and not based on rough calculation. this we can look at 10th may. state of Delhi is critical
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 5, 2021
The judge said the Centre cannot make a general assessment for India as the pandemic was peaking at different times in states and that demand needs to be evaluated on a real-time basis. “There is tremendous pressure on citizens to get cylinders and oxygen,” he added. “If you can showcase the time of arrival, the amount of oxygen, please put it up upfront and publicise. So that citizens know.”
With inputs from PTI
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