Centre Moves Supreme Court Over Delhi HC Contempt Warning on Oxygen Availability

The Centre on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court on the Delhi High Court’s contempt warning to it on the availability of oxygen in light of the Covid-19 crisis. During the hearing the Centre told the Supreme Court that putting officers in jail would not be the solution to the crisis.

The Delhi High Court had directed the Centre to show cause as to why contempt not be initiated against it for failing to comply with the order on the supply of oxygen to the national capital for treating Covid-19 patients.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising MR Shah heard the matter as Chief Justice India NV Ramana asked the Supreme Court registry to place the papers on the matter before this bench.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehra represented the Union government, while senior advocate Rahul Mehra appread on behalf of GNCTD. Mehta told the Supreme Court, “The Centre and Delhi government are both making best efforts. This is not adversarial. Putting officers in jail will not ensure oxygen supply. The Centre is preparing a module for supplying oxygen to various states.”

The court asked the Centre, “Why are the orders of supply of oxygen to Delhi not been complied with?” To which, Mehta said, “Demand for oxygen has steeply gone up. We are diverting oxygen from all possible sources. Equitable distribution of oxygen is being ensured.”

Justice Chandrachud reiterated, “Effort should be to comply, we agree that putting officers in jail would not help the situation.”

The Delhi High Court had asked state and centre officials to remain present in court for contempt proceedings since oxygen supply, as per Supreme Court order, was not met with.

On Tuesday a Delhi High Court bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli rejected the Centre’s submission that Delhi was not entitled to 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen in light of existing medical infrastructure.

“We see grim reality every day of people not able to secure oxygen or ICU beds in hospitals which have reduced beds due to gas shortage,” it said. The high court directed two senior central government officers to be present before it on Wednesday to respond to the notice.

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