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Submit ATR of National Task Force on oxygen in two weeks, SC tells Centre

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 9

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to submit in two weeks its action taken report (ATR) on implementing the recommendations of a court-appointed National Task Force (NTF) on allocation of oxygen to states and Union Territories to deal with Covid-19 pandemic.

On June 22, the NTF had recommended that India should have strategic reserves of medical oxygen for two-three weeks of consumption on the lines of the arrangements made for petroleum products.

A Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said since NTF consists of senior doctors and experts from across the country, it’s imperative for the Centre to take steps to ensure that its recommendations were duly implemented at the policy level to meet any exigencies in present and foreseeable future.

The Bench posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks along with the matter on Covid preparedness after the Centre’s counsel sought time to file an ATR on NTF recommendations. It sought to know how the government intended to implement the recommendations.

The Bench is seized of the Centre’s petition challenging a Delhi High Court order initiating contempt proceedings against some central government officials for non-compliance of the HC’s direction to supply 700 MT of medical oxygen for Covid-19 patients admitted in hospitals in the national capital. On May 5, it had stayed the contempt proceedings before the HC, saying putting officers in jail won’t bring oxygen.

Amid wrangling over oxygen supply to hospitals, the Supreme Court had on May 6 set up a 12-member NTF to streamline allocation to the life-saving gas to various states/union territories.

Consisting of top medical experts, the NTF is tasked with formulating a methodology for allocation of oxygen and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic that has seen a sudden spike in the number of infections in its second wave across India.

A sub-group led by AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria set of the court had earlier indicted the Delhi Government for allegedly inflating the oxygen requirement of the national capital by four times during peak of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, adversely affecting oxygen supply in 12 states. It had concluded that the Arvind Kejriwal government “exaggerated” oxygen consumption and made a claim of 1140 MT—four times higher than the formula for bed capacity requirement of 289 MT.

As amicus curiae Jaideep Gupta said the sub-committee on evaluation of oxygen allocation to Delhi has submitted its interim report, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, objected to the findings in the interim report of the sub-committee.

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