The Karnataka High Court has put the Centre on notice stating that it will be passing orders directing the Centre to increase the oxygen supply quota as well as Remdesivir supply to Karnataka. During the hearing, the bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar took stern notice of the fact that allocation on both counts were quite low compared to the requisition made by the state government to the Centre.
The court heard the petitions a day earlier than stipulated considering the serious situation regarding the rising number of positive cases in the State of Karnataka and the shortage of oxygen in the State.
In its April 29 order, the court had directed the state to submit a representation to the concerned central government department setting out the projected requirement of oxygen per day for at least 7 more days and directed the Centre to take immediate decision on the same.
On the May 4 hearing, the Centre informed the court that the oxygen allocation was marginally increased from 802 MT to 865 MT. the court considered this against its order where it was stated that the requirement was about 1,471 and the requisition made by the state where it was stated that the requirement is likely to go up to 1,792 MT by May 5. In its letter, the state mentioned that 17% of the total active cases will require oxygenated beds and 3% will require ICU beds.
As per LiveLaw, the bench asked the Centre’s counsel, "What is your (Central Government) explanation, the requirement of the state is around 1700 MT per day and you have increased it only to 865? Are you not aware that people have died in the state due to non-availability of oxygen?”
The court added, “The Central government will have to either say that the state government is making out a false requirement of oxygen… if that is not false then you must increase the quota, one of the two things you will have to do it by tomorrow.”
The court had also granted time until afternoon for the central government counsel to seek instructions whether an ad hoc increase in the allocation can be made. But he informed the court that he cannot make a statement to the regard as the decision can be taken only after the process of consultation with concerned Ministries. To this, as per LiveLaw, the court orally remarked, “We don’t want any explanation the supply has to be provided. If your process is faulty is it not for you to correct?”
The court highlighted the incident of Chamarajanagar where, reportedly, 24 Covid patients died due to inadequate oxygen and Kalaburgi district also recorded about 9 such deaths.
The counsels appearing for petitioners submitted before the court, that compared to the active number of cases in other states, and the allocation to them, the allocation made to Karnataka was discriminatory in the sense that some states which do not have so many cases have been allocated the quota which exceeds the quota allocated to Karnataka. The court thus directed them to place on record the entirety of such data.
The court has given time to the Central government to reconsider the allocation and said that it will be considering passing order on increase in allocation on an ad hoc basis.
“We are putting the Central Government to notice that we will have to consider the prayer for issuing directions to the Central Government to immediately increase the quota on ad hoc basis, especially as it is pointed out across the Bar that in ten hospitals in the city of Bengaluru, the stock of oxygen has almost come to an end. It is pointed out across the Bar that even Kolar District does not have the supply of oxygen. Therefore, we are putting the Central Government to notice that the prayer for issuing a direction for increase in the quota on ad hoc basis will be considered tomorrow at 10.30 a.m,” said the court.
Meanwhile, the state government was directed to:
·place on record the existing guidelines/Standard Operating Procedure for allocation of oxygen to various districts /hospitals
·clarify if there is a mechanism in place whereby a hospital running out of oxygen can immediately get supply.
·clarify the mechanism available to the districts like Chamarajanagar where there are no bottling plants and therefore, filled oxygen cylinders are required to be brought from the adjacent districts
·take a call whether in such districts where filled oxygen cylinders are required to be physically secured from the adjacent districts, a buffer or reserve quota can be maintained at the district headquarters which may be used in case of emergencies
While the Advocate General submitted to the court that the inquiry report of the Chamarajanagar incident would be filed on May 5, the court was keen on holding an inquiry headed by a retired judge of the High Court especially because similar incidents were happening across other districts as well.
The court also took note of the Remdesivir allocation to the state. While the state had mentioned that requirement was of 35,000 vials per day, the Centre had made allocation of about 15,800 vials per day. Taking stern notice of this, the court informed the Centre that directions in this regard will also be passed by the court on May 5.
The court also requested Adv Vikram Huilgol who was earlier representing the State in these petitions, to assist the court as amicus curiae in these petitions.
The order may be read here:
Courtesy: Sabrang India