The Bombay High Court’s Nagpur bench Wednesday directed PRAX AIR – Bhilai to continue to supply 110 metric tons of liquid oxygen to Maharashtra until further orders, notwithstanding the order of the Health Ministry issued on April 18 to reduce it to 60 metric tons.
A division bench of Justices Sunil B. Shukre and SM Modak said the decision of the Union Health Ministry reducing the oxygen supply had hit the State of Maharashtra “as a bolt from the blue”.
The bench said although there was no order fixing the quota of liquid oxygen supply from PRAX AIR – Bhilai for Maharashtra, the practice that was consistently followed was for the plant to supply it in the quantity of 110 metric tons per day .
“In this situation of emergency poignantly enveloping a region which accounts for almost 40% Covid patients of the entire nation, the communication from the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs should have been to the effect of increasing the supply of liquid oxygen to the State of Maharashtra from the present practice of 110 metric tons per day to somewhere between 200 to 300 metric tons per day”, the court said.
The unfortunate action of the health ministry had very severely affected Covid patients in Maharashtra, in particular the Vidarbha region, the court said, directing the lawyer for the Centre to seek appropriate instructions from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare about increasing oxygen supply.
It also directed the Joint Commissioner, Food and Drugs Administration., Nagpur to see to it that there is no breakdown in the supply of oxygen to all hospitals in Nagpur.
“In case, any Covid hospital runs in short supply of oxygen, we would request that hospital to bring this fact immediately to the notice of the Joint Commissioner, F.D.A., Nagpur and also the Collector, Nagpur”, the court said.
The court also asked the Maharashtra Government and the Centre to file detailed affidavits about the steps taken in ensuring proper and consistent supply of Remdesivir drug and other life-saving drugs to the Vidharba region and Maharashtra as a whole.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.