Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? Delhi High Court on oxygen shortage
(PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to "forthwith" provide oxygen by whatever means to the hospitals in the national capital which are treating serious COVID-19 patients and are facing scarcity of oxygen. "Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals are running out of oxygen but steel plants are running," the high court said.

The High court said heavens are not going to fall if the industries, including steel and petroleum, run on lower capacity till oxygen is imported. It said certainly all hell will break loose with the stoppage of medical oxygen for hospitals.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, which was conducting the hearing on a holiday, said the responsibility to ensure oxygen supply is squarely on Central government's shoulders and if necessary, entire supply of oxygen to industries including steel and petroleum can be diverted for medical usage.

"The steel and petrochemical industries are oxygen guzzlers and diverting oxygen from there can meet hospitals' requirements," the bench said. "If Tatas can divert oxygen they are generating for their steel plants to medical use, why can't others? This is the height of greed. Is there no sense of humanity left or not," the court observed.

It said the Centre shall consider ways and means for transporting oxygen to hospitals, either by creating dedicated corridor or airlift it from the place of production to the place of usage. The court is conducting an urgent hearing on a plea filed by Balaji Medical and Research Centre, which owns and runs various hospitals in the name of Max, stating that if supply of oxygen is not replenished on an immediate basis, the lives of the patients who are critical and on oxygen support will be endangered.

The bench said, "we are constrained to direct the Centre to forthwith implement this order and take over supply of oxygen from steel plants and if necessary also from the petroleum plants, to supplyit to hospitals." It said such industries will have to stop their productions till the situation in hospitals improves and asked directed them to increase their oxygen production generated by them and give it to Centre for supply in other states for medical use.

On the request of Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, the high court agreed to continue the hearing after some time and will take it up again at 9:20PM.

"Our concern is not just for Delhi, we want to know what the Central government is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India," the bench said and added, "what is the central government doing. If this is the situation in Delhi, we are sure it is the same in other states."

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