Oxygen crisis: Centre urges Delhi HC to recall warning

Photo: Meer Faisal

The Central government on Sunday urged the Delhi High Court to recall its order warning the Union government of contempt proceedings if it failed to supply the 490 metric tonnes of oxygen a day allocated to Delhi.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli that there was a systematic failure in dealing with the oxygen crisis.  “Every hospital at the last minute comes to court and we’re fire fighting,” he argued for Central government. The application says that the May 1 order will have a demoralising effect on its officials.

“Can’t hospitals tell that 12 hours down the line that we would run out? Systematic failure doesn’t mean the government has failed.”

The bench stopped Mehta from shifting the responsibility to the Delhi government. “Delhi is on a very different footing. You issued a notification saying Delhi government is lieutenant governor…Look at the constitutional scheme. Delhi is not an industrial state”.

Earlier in the day, a children’s hospital was among at least three institutions that raised an alarm on Twitter that it was running out of oxygen.

Meanwhile, half a dozen hospitals in Delhi has notified the government that it will run out of oxygen by midnight —Sunday night. 12 patients died on Saturday in Delhi’s Batra Hospital after the facility ran out of medical oxygen.

Appearing for the Delhi government, Rahul Mehra said the allocated amount of oxygen was never made available to the Delhi government. He also said the Centre’s application was “uncalled for” and said Delhi government officers were “stretched beyond their limits” and if allegations of incompetence are made against them, they will have a nervous breakdown.

Delhi’s quota of oxygen had been raised to 490 metric tonnes per day – against an estimated demand of around 700 MT – but supply is only around 400 MT, the state government told the Court on Saturday.

The Arvind Kejriwal government suggested that the Centre should also take over all tankers, like they took over oxygen plants, and distribute it equally among states.

“The Delhi government has not made any serious attempt nor has ever approached the Ministry of Road Transport, Union of India, for temporary help or assistance for transportation of oxygen,” the Centre’s application said.