In its affidavit filed in the suo motu case before the Supreme Court on the COVID-19 crisis, the Central government has stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is directly involved in the process of procuring oxygen supply.
The government said that steps to augment Oxygen supply is being done on war footing and innovative measures are being implemented to tide over the problem.
“The Central Government, with active and constant supervision and direct involvement of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Home Minister, is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing evolving and implementing innovative measures,” the affidavit said.
The same was also brought to the notice of the Court by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday.
“We should all be proud that this issue is being looked into by the Prime Minister and all political parties are coordinating across party lines,” he said.
The Centre further stated that it is making efforts to procure oxygen from all available sources within India and is also importing oxygen from other countries. To this end, the following measures are being taken:
- Issuing licences to industrial gas manufacturers to manufacture medical oxygen;
- Enhanced production in steel plants and other initiatives through Ministry of Steel;
- Enhancing production of medical oxygen from other manufacturers;
- Restrictions on industrial use of oxygen;
- Augmentation in availability of tankers;
- Commissioning of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants.
It was further stated that the production of Remdesivir and other COVID-19 drug has been upped in light of the growing demand for the same.
On the National Plan for handling the COVID-19 crisis, the Centre submitted that the same is already in place. However, the affidavit goes on to state,
“It is submitted that a national plan does not and cannot contain step by step instructions or specific directions for the day-to-day management by Government agencies in the situation of any particular and unforeseen disaster. It is submitted that a national plan designedly keeps the said aspects of executive decision making open in order to enable the Government statutory functionaries and all stake holders to take appropriate measures in dynamic and fast developing situations such as the present pandemic. In that view of the matter, the National Plan is not a document that contains the microscopic details as to the day-to-day management of the issues arising out of different disasters…”
It was further submitted that such a plan is executed through passing of executive orders by the relevant ministries at the Central and the State level.
The 106-page affidavit also detailed the steps taken by the Centre to deal with issues arising out of the pandemic. These include measures taken for COVID-19 testing facilities, imposition of lockdown, benefits for frontline workers, increasing capacity of hospital beds and equipment in hospitals, funding to states, etc.
The Centre submitted that it is “fully sensitive to the miseries being faced by the citizens during this second wave of COVID crisis and is taking urgent and concrete and comprehensive steps to mitigate the miseries of the citizens and loss of life during this unprecedented strain on our health infrastructure.”
The Bench headed by former Chief Justice of India SA Bobde issued notice on four aspects:
– Supply of oxygen;
– Supply of essential drugs;
– Method and manner of vaccination and
– Power to declare lockdown.
It had also contemplated transferring the matters taken up by various High Court across the country to itself, noting in its order,
“High Courts have passed certain orders which may have the effect of accelerating and prioritising the services to a certain set of people and slowing down the availability of these resources to certain other groups whether the groups are local, regional or otherwise.”
The Bench also asked the Central government to place before it a National Plan for dealing with the above mentioned issues.
The Court received a lot of flak for this order from various Senior Advocates as well members of the bar associations across the country.
In response, the Court took a dim view of Senior Counsel “imputing motives” to judges and CJI Bobde in particular.
Today, the new Bench which now features Justice DY Chandrachud said that it will not stop High Courts from exercising their jurisdiction to look into COVID related issues.