“BEG, BORROW OR STEAL. IT IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY” — Delhi High Court
Taking note of the grim Covid situation, Delhi High Court came down heavily on the Centre government over the poor response to tackle the situation. While underlining the government’s responsibility to arrange oxygen for the patients, the High Court noted that it seemed that “human lives are not that important.. for the state”.
The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli told the Centre that it is their responsibility to arrange oxygen supply. “Beg, borrow, or steal. It is a national emergency,” said the bench.
“We are shocked and dismayed that the government does not seem to be seeing the reality… What is happening? Why is the government not waking up to the reality,” the court said.
The High Court took the matter for urgent hearing following a request from Max Healthcare citing the criticality of the situation that hospitals are working on dangerously low levels of oxygen supply.
“Every 10 days, we have doubled the number of (Covid-19) cases and the fact of the matter on the ground is that there is a shortage of oxygen and it is evident to all. It is not that it is artificial or being wrongly projected. It is there. We cannot shut our eyes to it,” said the HC bench.
“As a state, you cannot say that look we can provide this much and no more, so if people die, let them die. That cannot be acceptable and that cannot be an answer of the sovereign state. We will have to enforce the fundamental rights of people and direct beg, borrow and steal and do whatever you have to do but you have to do. We cannot see people dying, because people are dying,” the court added.
Drawing attention to the ban on industrial use of oxygen, the bench further said, “You have your own state-run steel plants and petroleum industries. Why can’t you curtail it? Why can’t you stop it? Why can’t you minimise it to whatever is absolutely critical? We can understand that you cannot shut down petroleum production completely in the country because it is a critical thing by itself, but you can reduce it. We are sure that if you were to divert their oxygen for medical use, you would be able to meet the requirement.”
The court went on to say, “There is no sense of humanity left or what. What are we looking at… This is really, really ridiculous. You’re concerned about industries at this point of time when people are dying in thousands. One week, two weeks, your industries can wait. It is an emergency of such a grave nature. Human lives are not that important.. that means.. for the state?”
“We are telling you that as a sovereign state, it is your responsibility to provide every metric tonne of oxygen that is required by patients in India. It is your responsibility. You cannot turn around and say ‘sorry, we do not have it, lose your life’. We cannot accept that. You have to go a step further. The result is that those industries have to shut down for some time, till you make alternate arrangements, so be it, because we cannot afford to lose lives. That is the bottom line,” the High Court said.
Replying to all the questions, Centre told the court that they have increased the oxygen supply to Delhi from 378 MTs to 480 MTs.
“What is the point of all this paper exercise? We do not understand. If they require 700 MTs… the number of patients has risen. It is no solace to anybody that you are supplying 400-odd. We are not blaming you but you have to understand that it is an emergency,” the court said.