Can’t become ground for blame game between Centre, Delhi: SC on O2 crisis

The Supreme Court on Thursday made it crystal clear that it will not allow the court to become a ground for recriminations between the Centre and the Delhi government in connection with supply of oxygen to the capital, as it emphasised that a blame game should not happen against the backdrop of the oxygen crisis.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah cautioned both Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Centre, and senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, and asked them to engage in a cooperative manner amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We are making it clear that this is not an adversarial litigation. We are not going to allow this constitutional court to become a ground of recrimination between two governments,” the bench said, adding that it rather wants everyone should work in a cooperative manner.

Mehra submitted before the bench that Centre did not allocate the requisite amount of oxygen to Delhi despite its direction, and cited that on Thursday, the supply of oxygen was not 700 MT. He cited that other state governments such as Madhya Pradesh and Punjab were given more oxygen than their demands. Mehra added that Centre has tried to put the Delhi government in the dock in every affidavit they have filed before the courts.

Mehta contested this line of argument, stating that the Centre complied with the top court order without fail and instead of 700 MT oxygen, it had ensured a supply of 730 MT to Delhi on Wednesday. Mehta added a survey was conducted in 56 major hospitals of the national capital on May 4, where it was found the hospitals had a significant stock of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and added that he was not blaming anybody.

Mehta added that two oxygen express trains were in transit but against backdrop of pan-India situation, if Centre continues to give 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi, then it may deny other states of equitable distribution and emphasised that demand of 700 MT is not correct.

He submitted unloading of oxygen tankers, which were brought to Delhi was consuming a lot of time, which is not required, as these specialised vehicles were supposed to rush back for refilling to the eastern corridor.

Citing the Centre’s affidavit in the top court, Mehra said the Centre said there is no dearth of oxygen in the country and they have a reserve of 16,000 MT, and hence giving 210 MT more of oxygen will not make other states suffer.

Mehra said only 510 MT of the gas was supplied to the Delhi government and they have information that despite supplying 730 MT on Wednesday, the supply is being brought down to 566 MT. Mehra added that if a committee were to be formed for auditing the supply and demand of oxygen, it should have representatives from top five-affected states. He further added that the government has started installing GPS on tankers to track the vehicles.