Delhi HC pulls up Centre for not supplying oxygen, issues notice for contempt

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday came down hard upon the Centre and asked why the bench should not initiate contempt charges against it for failing to comply with the order on the supply of oxygen to Delhi.

Rejecting the Centre’s submission that Delhi was not entitled to 700 MT of medical oxygen in light of existing medical infrastructure, a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli took the government to task and said, “You can put your head in the sand like an ostrich, we will not.”

“We see grim reality every day of people not able to secure oxygen or ICU beds. The situation is such that hospitals have had to reduce the number of beds,” the bench said, directing two senior central government officers to be present before it on Wednesday to respond to the notice.

Earlier in the day, the court remarked IITs and IIMs would do a better job with oxygen distribution than the Centre.

The Supreme Court had on April 30 directed the central government to rectify the oxygen deficit of Delhi on or before midnight of May 3 after the Solicitor General assured that the oxygen needs of the city would be met.

The Delhi High Court had also passed a similar order in an emergency sitting held on May 1.

During the course of the hearing, the court sought the compliance report with 700 MT oxygen to Delhi. But Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma denied receiving any instructions about it and told the bench that the Centre would file a report in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

To this, the bench said: “Please do not tell us that it is a Supreme Court order so you will show a report to them. You are bound by our order. Just because we told the officers that contempt is the last thing on our mind doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just like SC passed an order, we too passed an order. Contempt may be the last thing, but it’s very much there. Enough is enough. We mean business.”