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Delhi government exposed in courtroom; HC reminds it that people are dying

"Get your house in order. Enough is enough. If you cannot do it, tell us, we will ask the central government to take over. People are dying," a bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli told the Delhi government.

Delhi government exposed in courtroom over oxygen shortage-VPN
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New Delhi, First Published Apr 27, 2021, 7:23 PM IST
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday came down hard upon the Delhi government, directing it to get its house in order about the handling of the oxygen shortage in the city.

"Get your house in order. Enough is enough. If you cannot do it, tell us, we will ask the central government to take over. People are dying," a bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli told the Delhi government counsel.

The court also noted complaints from various hospitals about oxygen shortage and how calls and messages were going unanswered.

Issue 1: Clueless on action against erring vendors

Delhi Chief Secretary informed the court that a marathon meeting was held on Monday. A point taken was that we want to ensure that hospitals have a constant supply of oxygen so that they focus on their medical duties. 

However, the court strongly objected to some cylinder vendors not attending the meeting.

The Delhi government appeared clueless about what action was needed against such vendors. To this, the court observed, "In case these people are not falling in line and not providing cylinders, you take over the plant. We have also been informed there has been black marketing. Keep them in custody if they are playing with people’s lives like that."

Issue 2: Pressuring hospitals with advisory

The court quizzed the Delhi government's counsel over the April 25 order, which stated that a patient should be attended to immediately and taken to the triage area and that this process should not take more than 10 minutes. In the triage area, there should be oxygen and medicines. 

When the court asked if the Delhi government's hospitals were in a position to do so, the counsel said that it was an advisory to ensure that if someone critical is coming to the hospital, the person must be attended to.

The court noted, "If there is negligent behaviour by any hospitals, you pass orders. But passing these orders generally proceeds to assume that hospitals are not doing their job without this order. You are unnecessarily putting pressure on hospitals that are already under pressure. There has to be some background to whenever an issue is passed. It seems like this paperwork, just window dress, which has been done to satisfy patients and attendants that look we have issued the order."

Issue 3: 'The system has failed.'

The High Court bench observed that clearly, the system put in place by the Delhi government had not worked.

When some hospitals pointed out that they were yet to receive oxygen cylinders, the Delhi government counsel said, "Right now, we are unable to understand who (cylinder vendor) is giving what."

To this, the court observed: "Hospitals do not have cylinders. Why should we have to tell you? You should have people there. It is not like the Delhi government is understaffed. You need to delegate and have people everywhere."

"This oxygen cylinder business is a complete mess. The Delhi government has to put its house in order! The hospitals are not getting the cylinders. People have to buy it from the black market. Something needs to be done," the bench added.

Issue 4: No accountability for Gas refillers

The High Court comes across a gas refiller, Seth Air, who reportedly had 20 MT of medical oxygen but was not supplying it to hospitals where it was needed the most.

The court observed: "It has emerged that substantial quantity is supplied to gas refillers, but no mechanism has been evolved as of now to see further supply made by them to hospitals."

"We want this unit (Seth Air) to be taken over by tomorrow. Let this be an example for others. Seth appears to be a rather big supplier. He was not part of your (Delhi government) order! There seems to be something fishy. This cannot be just overlooked!"

"From the hearing today, it is clear to us that the Delhi government has to pull up its socks for aspects of the distribution of liquid oxygen to larger hospitals but also cylinders used in smaller hospitals," the bench said, adding, "We are alarmed by the situation that we have discovered today! If we look back when Solicitor General Mehta said there is availability, we did not believe it then! You are an administrator, and you should know how to administer." 

NOTE: Asianet News humbly requests everyone to wear masks, sanitize, maintain social distancing and get vaccinated as soon as eligible. Together we can and will break the chain #ANCares #IndiaFightsCorona.

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