New Delhi, May 07, 2021: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Karnataka High Court order asking the Centre to reconsider its daily liquid medical oxygen (LMO) allocation to the state.
The Centre moved the top court on Thursday against an order of the Karnataka High Court asking it to increase daily oxygen allocation for the state from 965 MT to 1200 MT for treating Covid-19 patients.
"We don’t want to leave the citizens of Karnataka in the lurch. The order of the High Court is a careful, calibrated and judicial exercise of power. We see no reason to entertain the SLP," said a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued before the Supreme Court that high courts in the country should not pass orders for "immediate supply" of oxygen in their respective states.
"Oxygen as a resource is not unlimited. We are trying our best to solve the problem. If every High Court starts to pass orders, then it will lead to a complete breakdown of pandemic management," Tushar Mehta said.
To this, the bench said, "We must understand that judges are also humans. The HC has seen deaths in Chamarajanagar and Kalburgi. They are looking at the human aspect."
Earlier this week, 24 Covid-19 patients died in Chamarajanagar district hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage. Seven more patients died in Kalaburagi and Belagavi also.
The apex court also noted that the High Court had passed the order based on the number of cases and projected increase. The court also noted that according to the Karnataka government projections, the per day requirement of oxygen in the state was close to 1800MT, with a "minimum requirement of 1100 MT".
Justice MR Shah, who is also part of the bench, said, "In this order, the court has gone into all aspects. The court has gone into your norms for oxygen requirement. If there is a problem with supply, you consider it."
The Supreme Court, however, said it would "direct the setting up of a committee to relook at oxygen allocation". "There will be a time gap between the orders and the report of the committee," the court observed.
The bench also raised the question of the allocation of oxygen from distant areas. The Karnataka government had informed the High Court that 30MT of oxygen was allocated from a port where it was unable to pick up the supply.
Taking note of this statement, the SC bench asked the Centre why it was allocating oxygen from distant areas. "We are asking you. What’s the point of allocating quota which will take 48 hours to reach? Are you considering the mapping issues while allotting," asked Justice Shah.
While daily infections and active cases in Karnataka are rising alarmingly, the fatalities are also mounting.
On Thursday, there were 346 deaths, taking the total deaths so far to 16,884. Bengaluru was the main contributor of Covid-19 cases in Karnataka with 23,106 infections and 161 fatalities on a single day, taking the total infections and deaths to 8,63,380 and 7,006 cumulatively. The city had 3.13 lakh active cases as on Wednesday.