Contempt Notice Issued To Manufacturers For Not Supplying Oxygen and Wastage of Vaccine Is Criminal Waste: Delhi High Court

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Case Name: Rakesh Malhotra vs. Government of National Capital Territory of India and Others [W.P. (C) 3031 OF 2020]

Excerpt

The High Court of Delhi in a matter related to the Covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday (April 20, 2021) issued a contempt notice to an oxygen manufacturer M/s INOX for not complying with the earlier order to supply oxygen to the Delhi government and observed that wastage of even single dose of vaccine would be a criminal waste.

Facts of the Case

The present case was related to the problems which are being faced by the hospital authorities and general public regarding wastage of vaccination, shortage of oxygen and shortage of beds, medicines and ventilator facilities in hospitals, etc. caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Last year during the period of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, a petition was filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra. That petition was disposed of in January 2017 after viewing that the situation was getting normal. However, after taking into consideration of the Second Wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bench revived the case.

On April 19, 2021, the bench of the Supreme Court directed both the Centre as well as Delhi Government to file the affidavit stating the availability of beds, with and without ventilators and oxygen in the National Capital of the country. Furthermore, the court had expressed displeasure at how the migrant workers had been dealt with during the pandemic. The Centre had filed the affidavit on April 20, 2021, whereas the Delhi Government requested extending the time for filing the affidavit on April 22, 2021. The Centre had also called upon states and UTs to provide their requirements for ventilators in the states, so the centre can supply ventilators at the earliest. Also, it was stated that the central government was endeavouring to make more beds available. 

Pleadings before the Court

It was submitted on behalf of the Central Government that in light of the urgent need for oxygen, the Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade (DPIIT) was currently investigating the possibility of diverting oxygen from industrial use to medical use. Oxygen allocations have been made in response to state demands and a method been developed by experts to determine the amount of oxygen required for COVID patients. The allocation for Delhi was stated to be 378 MT per day. It was further submitted that apart from the industries that are allowed to use oxygen, other industries have been told not to use it so that it can be used for medical purposes in the world. Steel and petrochemical industries are also included in the list of approved industries. In December 2020, the Central Government approved funds to build Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants for the production of oxygen across the country and eight such plants had been approved for the Delhi NCT.

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On the other hand, it was submitted on behalf of Respondent no. 1 and 2 that during the period, when the pandemic was at its peak last year, the Central Government had set aside 4,112 beds in its hospitals and facilities in Delhi for COVID patients. Whereas, it was claimed that the number of COVID-positive patients was now four times higher than it was last year at its peak. He believes that the federal government should provide more COVID patients with beds in its hospitals and facilities. I was also submitted that In Delhi’s hospitals, there was a severe shortage of medical oxygen, with a daily demand of 700 MT, according to him. It was also said that M/s INOX had failed to comply with our order from yesterday, which mandated M/s INOX to honour its contract with the GNCTD and Delhi hospital and supply 140 MT of oxygen to Delhi. The explanation for noncompliance was claimed to be the potential for a law and order situation to arise if M/s INOX transports oxygen from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, where INOX’s manufacturing unit was located.

Court’s Observation

The bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli made observations on various issues like shortage of oxygen, vaccination programme, shortage of medicines, shortage of beds in COVID hospitals, RT-PCR testing etc. 

It was observed that out of the 10 crores vaccines allotted to different states, approximately 44 lakhs have been wasted. This was due to a limit on the age or group of people who are eligible to receive the vaccine. Wasting even a single dose of vaccine as it was proving to be life–saving was, in our opinion, a criminal waste. Furthermore, the court observed the importance of the lives of people and that the importance of economic interest cannot override the importance of human life.

It was also observed that the need for oxygen was now and the supply of oxygen should be banned for critical industries from now itself and right now the situation on the availability of oxygen in hospitals was rather alarming and also that there should be no discrimination while giving the test reports, and sending medicines. 

Court’s Order

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The Supreme Court in this Order directed the Central Government to review the allocation of oxygen on a day-to-day basis so that its use was achieved in the most efficient manner possible, based on the number of COVID positive patients across the country. It also directed the government to devise a system for registering volunteers under the age of 45 but over the age of 18 and who may be called upon to administer any remaining vaccine doses if they are not used; for making available more beds in the hospital; etc. Furthermore, it issued a contempt notice to an oxygen manufacturer M/s INOX for not complying with its earlier order to supply oxygen to Delhi Government.

Click here for the judgement.


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