The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Centre why the allocation of oxygen to other states was more than what they asked for, while even the allocated demand in Delhi was not being met. The Centre has been asked to file its reply on this issue by tomorrow.
The questions were raised after the Delhi government showed the high court a chart outlining demands raised by states versus the oxygen that was allocated to them by the Centre. According to the chart—which showed oxygen requested by state governments as on April 21—Maharashtra was allocated 1661MT of oxygen against a demand of 1500MT, while Madhya Pradesh got 543MT against a demand for 440MT.
Delhi had requested 700MT whereas, it has been allocated 490MT.
The high court was hearing pleas on the severe shortage of oxygen, essential medicines and stress on the health care infrastructure as a result of the second COVID-19 wave.
High Court orders ignored, like paper orders: Delhi to High Court
When the hearing began, senior advocate Rahul Mehra submitted, "all states have been given what they asked for. The only state that has been left out is Delhi."
"We have been hearing the matter for eight days now, every time the case is heard, the Solicitor General (Tushar Mehta) has made a statement that he will look into it, but nothing has been done," Mehra added.
"We are placed in the dock time and again while they (the Centre) are miserably failing the country," Mehra, who represents the Aam Aadmi-led state government, said.
The high court orders are akin to "paper orders" if the Centre and the state side-step them, he added.
Allocation doesn't appear to fall in line: Delhi HC to Centre
The Centre submitted that curtailed oxygen supply was sufficient to meet Delhi's needs. The Centre—which has taken control of oxygen supply—has allocated 490MT per day to Delhi, of which it is currently receiving 330-335MT per day.
This is "sufficient", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, a point the high court disagreed on. "This is not correct," Justice Vipin Sanghi said.
After perusing the chart, Justice Sanghi pointed out the discrepancy and observed that the allocation doesn't appear to fall in line.
Mehta, who is representing the Centre objected to the chart being made public. "Let's not make hysterical suggestions," he said after senior advocate Rahul Mehra completed his submissions. "I have to keep reminding myself, that any hysterical reaction will create panic…if we let ourselves get carried away," he added.
Oxygen allocation to states is decided by an empowered committee headed by the department of industries at the Centre. The Centre assured the high court that allocation was done based on a study and that oxygen supply was being augmented from all possible sources.
"We are not for a moment suggesting let other people die. If it is put to you that a state asked for 'x' and you gave it 'x'+'y' then, why Delhi did not get it," Justice Sanghi asked.
"Madhya Pradesh has three times the population of Delhi. The allocation could be because two of the districts there was experiencing a surge (in the number of cases)," Mehta reasoned. However, we will cut MP's supply and divert that to Delhi… at the cost of someone's life in MP, but let it be," Mehta said.
To which, Justice Sanghi cautioned Mehta and said, "Do not deprive anybody…We do not appreciate this. We are going by the facts and figures before us. Don't be emotional about it." There are several instances where the allocation is more than the demand, Justice Sanghi added.
However, even as the order was being dictated, Mehta urged the court to reconsider putting the chart on record. It would be unjustified to compare the state requirements with each other, he said.
The court heard Mehta's objection and directed the Centre to file its reply by tomorrow. "We also make it clear that we are not interested in securing for Delhi oxygen more than required at the cost of other states/union territories."