New Delhi, May 5
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Delhi High Court’s order asking the Centre to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against it for failing to comply with the order to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients.
“We will not send anyone to jail,” a Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
“We stay the operation of the contempt order of the Delhi High Court of the May 4. We clarify that the stay, which is being granted shall not operate as an order of restraint on High Court in continuing to monitor the allocation of oxygen in the proceedings before it,” it said.
The top court asked the Centre to place a tabulated chart indicated the manner of compliance of 700 MT with sources of supply, provisions of transportation and other logistical arrangements necessary to ensure fulfilment of requirement.
The Bench, however, said, “We are firmly of the view that order dated April 30 must be duly implemented. We are of the view that there is no requirement.”
Piqued over shortage of oxygen in the national capital, the Delhi High Court had on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against it for failing to comply with the order to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to hospitals for treating COVID19 patients.
Coming down heavily on the Centre over inadequate oxygen supply to Delhi, a Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli had said, “You (Centre) can put your head in sand like an ostrich, we will not…Are you living in ivory towers?”
It had ordered two senior central government officers to remain present before it on Wednesday to respond to the contempt notice.
The HC had rejected Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma’s submission that the top court had not directed supply of 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi.
As Sharma said a compliance affidavit of April 30 order will be filed in the Supreme Court by Wednesday morning, the Bench said, “We fail to understand what good a compliance affidavit will do when as a matter of fact 700 MT of oxygen is not delivered to Delhi? Even the earlier allocated 490 MT and revised 590 MT is not delivered even for a single day.”
The HC had said, “It pains us that the aspect of supply of oxygen for treatment of COVID-19 patients in Delhi should be viewed in the way it has been done by the Centre.”
The April 30 order of the Supreme Court contained a direction to the Centre to provide 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi, not just 490 MT, it had pointed out.
We had told you contempt is the last thing in our mind but it is certainly in our mind and doesn’t drive us to that last point. We mean business now. Enough is enough. Be clear on this. We are not going to take a no for an answer. There is no way you won’t supply 700 MT…We would not hear anything except compliance,” the Bench told Sharma.
Taking note of 12 deaths at Batra Hospital in the national capital due to lack of oxygen supply, the Delhi High Court had on May 1 directed the Centre to supply 490 MT of allocated oxygen to Delhi during the day itself by whatever means or face contempt of court action.