On a day when India recorded 3.14 Lakh Covid cases and over 2,104 deaths in a day, the Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of Covid management and sought a national plan from the Centre on supply of oxygen, essential drugs supply and method and manner of vaccination.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said: “We want to see a national plan on the issue.” The bench also appointed senior advocate Harish Salve as amicus curiae in the matter.
The bench said: “We want to know. In regard to the four issues: supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination. And, we want to keep the power to declare lockdown with the states.”
The top court took cognisance of Covid management, when High Courts across the country are hearing petitions in connection with crisis of oxygen supply, hospital beds and shortage of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir in hospitals.
The bench noted that six High Courts — Delhi, Bombay Sikkim, MP, Calcutta and Allahabad — were dealing with issues related with Covid management and it was creating confusion. The court said: “We as a court wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues. They (High Courts) are exercising jurisdiction in best interest. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources.”
In a separate hearing during an application by Vedanta seeking to carry some repair work and re-start oxygen plant at the Tuticorin, which can manufacture thousand tonnes of oxygen for COVID-19 patients, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the country is in dire need of oxygen. The plant has been shut since 2018 over environmental violations. The Chief Justice observed, “the present situation is like national emergency.”
The top court also asked the Centre to present a national plan. The matter has been scheduled for hearing on Friday.
The Delhi High Court has been hearing matters connected with emergency requests for oxygen and other resources for various hospitals in the city.
The High Court had observed that the citizen can only fall back on the state. “It is the responsibility of the government. Beg… borrow… or steal, it is your job,” said the High Court.
“How is the government so oblivious of the reality on the ground? You cannot have people dying because of no oxygen. You take your own sweet time and people die”, the High Court had said on Wednesday.