'700 tonne toh dena hi padega': SC to Centre on oxygen crisis in Delhi

The Supreme Court, which does not tire of giving ultimatums these days, on Thursday told the Centre that the national Capital must get at least 700 tonnes of oxygen every day. This is the quantity Delhi government needs to meet the demands of Covid patients.

The Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah was firm with the Centre: "You will have to give 700 MT oxygen to Delhi." (‘700 tonne to dena hi padega’). Otherwise, the Centre continues to be in contempt for not honouring its commitment.

The Bench further added that if nothing is to be hidden, let it come before the nation how allocation and distribution is transparently done by the Centre. Earlier, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a news conference that the city has been getting roughly half the quantity of oxygen it has been officially allocated, while neighbouring BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have been prioritised. He asserted that his administration "won't let anyone die" of oxygen shortage if it got the earmarked 700 tonnes every day from the Centre. ‘’

Defending its stand, the Centre's counsel submitted that the Delhi government is using the institution of the Supreme Court to speak against it. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before the top court that there has to be an audit because there is a systemic failure, but it is not against the political leadership or officers.

"The Centre was given mandate twice by the people of this country, and we are very much concerned. We cannot be Delhi-centric," he submitted.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said it was submitted by Mehta that there is no dearth of oxygen in the country. "Just to emphasise, on April 28, there was a 113 percent increase in Delhi demand of oxygen from 490 MT to 700 MT. Now, an attempt is being made to give even less than 560 MT, which was incidentally allocated after intervention of this court," he submitted.

The Centre further argued that the medical oxygen problem in Delhi is the city's own making. "The problem in Delhi is not because of less supply but an instance of a serious systemic failure in distribution," he said.

The court, in its summing up, said the country needs to be prepared for the third wave of COVID-19 which experts say could be more harmful, especially for children, and underscored the need to create a buffer stock of oxygen.

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