On 20th April, the Delhi High Court heard a petition revolving around the COVID-19 scenario in the National Capital Region. The Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli had sought information from the Centre on Oxygen shortage. The Court had noted, “Industries can wait. Human lives once lost are lost”. Facets like hospitals, oxygen supply, Remdesivir supply and RT-PCR tests were highlighted.
Further, the Delhi High Court ordered the Centre to ensure an urgent supply of Oxygen at six Max Hospitals with over 1400 patients. At a special sitting held late evening at 9.20 PM, the Court said that the Central Government should explore all alternatives to ensure that all hospitals in the national capital get oxygen. The Court said, “Beg, borrow to provide oxygen to hospitals; we cannot see people dying because of oxygen shortage”.
On 22nd April, the Bombay High Court too heard a plea alleging mismanagement of COVID-19 treatment in Maharashtra. The Bench was headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta. Right before the hearing commenced, CJ Datta addressed the media. CJ Dipankar Datta said, “I have to send a message to the media. Please appreciate that we are passing through a critical period. It is not the time for you to make sensational news and jack up the news. Sometimes we make comments out of anguish and despair, but to make headlines out of them to increase TRPs is not right.”
After the hearing began, CJ Datta took stock of the number of patients and other pertinent figures which were then submitted by ASG Anil Singh. The Court also highlighted how fake news and misinformation do the rounds on social media, creating panic. The order given out by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court on 21st April was also pointed out. This had issued directions on Oxygen and Remdesivir supply in Nagpur. The Court had also sought a response from the Central and state governments on the steps they will take to ensure fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 drugs and Oxygen throughout the state.
The Bombay High Court had advised everyone not to panic and not to administer Remdesivir indiscriminately till production is augmented. The Court also stated that controlled distribution of drugs and Oxygen has to be ensured. If a loophole is found to exist, the concerned authorities can take immediate action. Talking about the Nashik Oxygen leak tragedy, CJ Datta said, “It surprises us that despite having a shortage of Oxygen in the state, there is a leakage happening. How can this happen in a civilized society? This is not what we expect from the government”.
CJ Dipankar Datta also noted the fact that the Centre will look after the distribution of Oxygen and that Maharashtra has been allowed 146 MT more than its requirement. The Court also noted that if service labs are taking more tests than they can, then it is more dis-service than service. The Court also stated that it will give directions to the State to consider de-centralizing the lab testing.
The matter was then posted for hearing on May 4, 2021.
The Madras High Court also heard suo motu a case concerning the management of COVID-19 situation in Tamil Nadu on the 22nd April. The Court took up issues of supply of Remdesivir, Oxygen, ventilators and COVID-19 vaccinations. The Bench was headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee. CJ Banerjee highlighted the wastage of vaccines in the state.
Talking about the availability of Oxygen in Tamil Nadu, the Court mentioned, “If Tamil Nadu has sufficient resources, we should also help other states that do not have an adequate Oxygen supply. We are one country, if we have the resources here, we must share them.”
The Court also highlighted its concern over the financial burden that may be faced by low- income and marginalized groups, with the COVID-19 vaccine price being 400-600 Rs. The Court then posted this matter for hearing on 26th April, Monday and asked the state to provide further details on beds and vaccine availability. CJ Banerjee observed at the end, “There must be no alarm, no panic, yet we must be vigilant. There are many rumours which need to be quelled; rumours have a terrible impact. In time of crisis, rumours fuel you than hard facts”.
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