The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the contempt notice issued by the Delhi High Court against Central government officers for failing to comply with the direction to ensure 700 MT supply of oxygen to Delhi hospitals.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R Shah said: “We direct that by 10.30 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday), the Centre shall place a comprehensive plan in the form of a chart, indicating the manner in which the direction for allocation of 700 metric tonnes shall be complied with.”
The bench added that it does not want contempt proceedings, but rather wants action on ground. It reiterated that “putting officers in jail is not going to bring oxygen to the city, instead let us ensure lives are saved”.
The observation came during the hearing urgent plea by the Centre against Tuesday’s order by the High Court.
The top court also asked the Centre’s and Delhi’s officers to study and try to adopt the model followed by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation to deal with the similar oxygen crisis over there.
It also declined to stop the Delhi High Court from monitoring the oxygen situation in the national capital.
“No one can dispute that some have died to oxygen shortage and it is a national emergency. What is the plan?” the bench said, emphasising that it is answerable to citizens, as it referred to several deaths.
The court also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to inform it by Thursday, on the steps taken achieve quantity of 700 MT, though the Centre claimed to have supplied up to 550 MT. The top court on April 30, had fixed 700 MT as requirement for Delhi and directed the Centre to ensure the supply by May 3 midnight.
“When the country is facing humanitarian crisis, the court must aim at problem solving,” it said, adding that there must be some scientific basis to ascertain the requirement of oxygen by states on a real-time basis.
The top court said it will continue to hear the matter on Thursday.
“In good faith measure to submit a tabulated plan before this court, we allow Centre to submit a plan by 10.30 a.m. tomorrow,” it said.
The top court emphasised that methodology, proper distribution, planning and actual availability and procurement of the oxygen are key concerns in the entire matter.
On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court had asked the Centre to explain why contempt action should not be initiated after a law officer maintained Delhi was not entitled to 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.