NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre to submit within two weeks the action taken report (ATR) on implementing the suggestions of of the court-appointed National Task Force (NTF) on allocation of oxygen to states and Union Territories amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top court said that since the NTF consists of senior doctors and experts from all over the country, it is imperative for the Centre to take steps to ensure that its recommendations are duly implemented at the policy level to meet any exigencies in present and foreseeable future.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks and listed it along with the suo motu matter on COVID preparedness.
The top court noted that the final NTF report has been submitted and an interim report of the sub-committee on evaluation of oxygen requirement of national capital has been filed.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Centre against the Delhi High Court order initiating contempt proceedings against the central government officials for non-compliance of the direction to supply 700 MT of medical grade oxygen for COVID-19 patients in the national capital.
At the outset, advocate Rajat Nair, appearing on behalf of the office of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said that a letter has been circulated last evening and they need some time to file ATR on the recommendations of the NTF.
The bench told Nair that it wants to know how the government is implementing NTF''s recommendations.
Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter, said that the sub-committee on evaluation of oxygen allocation to Delhi has submitted its interim report and the court should not waste its time looking into it.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, said it agreed with Gupta''s submission but just wanted to point out that they have objected to the findings of the interim report given by the sub-committee.
Mehra requested the court to take up this matter along with its suo motu case on COVID preparedness as all states are party to that.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhatti, appearing for the Centre, said that final report of NTF and interim report of the sub-committee has been placed on record, on June 22.
The bench then directed that all the reports be taken on record and the Centre should submit the action taken report on the recommendations of the NTF.
“It will be appropriate if this matter is taken along with the suo motu matter on COVID preparedness. List the matter after two weeks,” the bench ordered.
It asked Gupta and senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, also appointed as amicus in the matter, to file a small note before the next date of hearing as to what could be the way forward, “so that we can be prepared for the third wave”.
On May 5, the top court had stayed the contempt proceedings before the High Court saying putting officers in jail is not going to bring oxygen to the city.
On Jun 22, the NTF had recommended that the country should have strategic reserves of the lifesaving gas for 2-3 weeks of consumption on the lines of the arrangements made for petroleum products.
The 12-member NTF has said that all hospitals should have a buffer capacity for emergencies and they should set-up oxygen monitoring committees of senior staff.
The top court had set up the NTF on May 6 to formulate a methodology for allocation of oxygen for saving lives of COVID-19 patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.
"We should have strategic reserves of oxygen for the country to cover 2-3 weeks’ consumption, similar to the arrangement made for petroleum products. Similarly, all hospitals should have a buffer capacity for Emergencies,” the NTF had said.
Dealing with augmenting the supplies of liquid medical oxygen or LMO, based on present and projected demands during the pandemic, the panel said that about 20 per cent buffer capacity of the states'' requirement should be created for allocation over and above baseline demand for allocation to states with rising cases of COVID-19.
The sub-group constituted by the top court to audit Oxygen consumption in hospitals in national capital during the second wave of COVID-19 in its interim report had said that the Delhi government “exaggerated" the consumption of oxygen and made a claim of 1140 MT, four times higher than the formula for bed capacity requirement of 289 MT.
The five-member panel headed by AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria had said that the Delhi government had made the claims for allocation of 700 MT oxygen on April 30 of medical grade Oxygen using a “wrong formula”.