NEW DELHI: After an intense court drama, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the contempt proceedings initiated by the Delhi High Court against the Centre and its senior officials Sumitra Dawra and Piyush Goyal for failing to supply the allocated quantity of oxygen to Delhi and directed the Centre to inform it by evening how the 700 metric tonnes of oxygen supply will be maintained for the next four days.
It also asked the Delhi Government and the Centre to take a cue from the BMC on how it managed the same caseload of patients in the pandemic with just 250 MT of oxygen available to Mumbai.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta rushed to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana with a plea that the HC contempt move against officials monitoring oxygen procurement and supply may disrupt the system at a time when they were doing their best. The CJI said he cannot hear the matter. Instead, he directed the Registry to seek convenience of the Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat for possible hearing on Wednesday itself.
The CJI referred the matter to this Bench since it is already seized of the suo motu case initiated by former CJI Sharad Bobde and it was its order to supply 700 MT of Oxygen to Delhi by May 3 midnight whose defiance invited Delhi High Court's ire to issue the contempt notice, ordering the two officials to be present in the court on Wednesday.
The Bench headed by Dr Justice Chandrachud assembled and gave relief to the Centre from the HC's contempt notice. It also asked the Centre to maintain supply of 700 MT to Delhi for the next four days until next Monday when the suo motu case comes up ,when it will review its directions. It underlined that "hauling up officers working round the clock in a national crisis serves no purpose except demoralising them."
The supply of 550 MT of oxygen is not resolving the situation as many patients are outside the hospitals on stretchers and undergoing treatment at home. "This is not the time to find fault, but work with the focus to save as many lives as possible," the SC stressed.
It also asked the Centre and Delhi government to talk to the BMC to understand how it is managing a huge caseload of Covid-19 patients with just 250 MT of oxygen. It also asked Delhi government to erect oxygen storage tanks on a war footing and maintain a buffer stock.