Contempt not initiated: Delhi HC to Centre

‘Delhi is facing shortage of oxygen that no other State is facing’

The Delhi High Court on Sunday remarked that it had not initiated any contempt proceedings against Central government officials while responding to the Centre’s fresh application to modify the contempt portion on its May 1 order.

The High Court had on Saturday warned the Centre that it would consider initiating contempt proceedings against its officers if they failed to supply the allocated 490 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen allocated to Delhi.

“We have not initiated any contempt. That’s the last thing on our mind. We know how everyone is stressed. We know how officers are working,” a Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli remarked when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pleaded to consider modifying the contempt part of the May 1 order.

“We are concerned with the situation in Delhi. The situation in every State would be different. The problem that Delhi is facing in term of oxygen shortage, no other State is facing,” the court said.

“That’s exactly my question. Why other States are not facing the problem,” Mr. Mehta said.

To this, the HC said, “Because they are getting their oxygen.”

“Your lordship’s impression is not correct. Let’s not go by rhetoric,” the Solicitor General responded. Mr. Mehta further said that the Delhi government had not made any serious attempt nor had it ever been approached the Ministry of Road Transport for temporary help or assistance for transportation of oxygen.

“There are a large number of non-industrial States arranging tankers. I am sure the Delhi government must be doing innovative thinking,” Mr. Mehta said.

The court, however, shot back saying, “You say that the Delhi government has not taken certain steps. They (the Delhi government) did not raised it with the [Central] war room. They did not make effort to get the tankers on their own.”

“Mr. Mehra (the Delhi government’s counsel) has contested these. Beyond these allegations and counter allegations, the point is that we are dealing with a much larger question. We are dealing with the lives of many people. That’s why we are exercising this jurisdiction,” the HC said.

“So far as Delhi is concerned, Delhi is on a different footing. Recently, the Central government has issued a notification that the Government of Delhi is the Lieutenant Governor,” the court observed.

The Solicitor General said, “That’s for a different purpose. That does not take away the responsibility in this situation.”

During the hearing, the Centre shared data from oxygen manufacturers for the last three days in which Delhi was given 441.28 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen on April 29; 491.33 MT on April 30, and 441 MT on May 1.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra said, “This is completely away from our data that we have received. In-transit is taken by Central government in the data. We don’t consider it until its reaches Delhi.”

“There are discrepancies in the data…in-transit could be thousands of kilometres away,” the court said.

The High Court was informed during the special hearing on Sunday that oxygen gas cylinders, oxygen flow meters, and medicines required for the treatment of COVID-19 were being sold in the black market.

“We direct the State to ensure that none of the equipment or medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19 disease are sold at prices above the MRP,” the HC said.

“Any person found indulging in malpractice of either hoarding the equipment or medicines, or selling the same at prices above the MRP shall be booked, and brought to the notice of this court for initiating of independent contempt action against all such persons,” the court cautioned.

Mr. Mehra stated that the Delhi Police had created a helpline number (011) 23469900, where complaints regarding malpractice such as overcharging by ambulances, fake COVID-19 medicines, black marketing, hoarding of medicines, oxygen cylinders, concentrators or other medical equipment, or harassment at cremation grounds may be reported.

The court directed the Delhi government and the Commissioner of Police to widely publicise the helpline number in daily newspapers and other media channels.

Oxygen allocation per bed

State

Oxygen beds

ICU beds

Total Beds

Oxygen allocation (MT)

Delhi

12500

4607

17107

590

Gujarat

43866

13407

57273

975

Maharashtra

81526

27247

108773

1804

Tamil Nadu

32405

9600

42005

404

Karnataka

24293

3215

27508

865

Madhya Pradesh

21855

3215

27508

649

Rajasthan

8532

2326

10858

380

West Bengal

16000

5500

21500

308

SOURCE: Centre’s submission to Delhi HC

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