The Supreme Court on Saturday formed a panel, which includes AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria, for audit of medical oxygen for Delhi to examine its supply and efficacy in its distribution by the Delhi government.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said: “For carrying out the above audit exercise for NCTD, the audit sub-group shall consist of Dr Randeep Guleria, Professor and Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep, AIIMS; Sandeep Budhiraja, Clinical Director & Director, Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare; and an IAS officer each from the Union government and GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi), not below the rank of joint secretary.”
The top court emphasised that the purpose of conducting audits is to ensure accountability in respect of the supplies of oxygen provided to every state/UT.
“The purpose is to ensure that the supplies which have been allocated are reaching their destination; that they are being made available through the distribution network to the hospitals or, as the case may be, the end users efficiently and on a transparent basis; and to identify bottlenecks or issues in regard to the utilization of oxygen,” the top court said in its order.
However, the bench made it clear that the purpose of the audit is not to scrutinise the decisions made in good faith by the doctors while treating their patients.
The bench said the Centre would continue with the present practice of making allocations of oxygen until the National Task Force formed on Saturday submits its recommendations with regard to the proposed modalities.
“The Union government shall on receipt of the recommendations of the task force take an appropriate decision in regard to the allocation of oxygen and on all other recommendations. The Task Force shall also submit its recommendations from time to time to this court,” said the top court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had submitted that many of the demands by the states and UTs, including the government of Delhi, for the provision of medical oxygen were unrealistic.
“The problem of shortage in NCTD is due to a systemic failure to ensure proper distribution of oxygen; In order to resolve the issue, it would be necessary to conduct an audit with regard to the manner in which the available supplies are distributed through the networks and are ultimately utilised,” submitted Mehta.
But the Delhi government’s counsel contested these submissions stating that there is no need for an audit and, if at all an audit is to be conducted, it should be of the availability of tankers.
“In any event, the exercise of carrying out an audit would be meaningless unless the formula pursuant to which the Union government is allocating oxygen is revisited,” said the Delhi government counsel.
The Delhi government insisted that several steps have been taken by it to bring about efficiencies in the transportation of oxygen; for instance, the tankers which have been recently acquired are being tracked on a real-time basis through GPS.
The next hearing on the matter is scheduled on May 17.