The Union government on May 6 approached the Supreme Court against a Karnataka High Court direction asking the Union government to allocate 1200 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to the state. The Union government’s decision to move the apex court over the High Court directive comes at a time when Karnataka is facing an acute shortage of medical grade oxygen.
According to Live Law, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned the appeal before Justice DY Chandrachud who in turn asked the matter to be mentioned before Chief Justice NV Ramanna and sought records of the case.
The Karnataka High Court direction on May 5 came following the Chamarajanagar tragedy on May 3 when 24 COVID-19 patients, who were on ventilators died, due to inadequate supply of oxygen at the government medical college hospital. Two patients in Bengaluru and 12 COVID-19 patients in Kalaburagi also died due to oxygen shortage this week.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentions an appeal against Karnataka HC Order— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 6, 2021
SG: Court has asked to increase the cap from A amount to B amount?
Justice Chandrachud: We don't have the papers, mention it before the CJI
Justice Chandrachud: mention it before the CJI— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 6, 2021
SG: order has just been uploaded but SLP is filed and numbered
Justice Chandrachud: okay you circulate it
Till date, the quota set by the Union government for Karnataka is at 965 metric tonnes at a time when the state has projected a need of 1792 metric tonnes. Of this, 800 metric tonnes are from oxygen plants situated within Karnataka itself.
On May 4, the Karnataka HC bench led by CJ AS Oka had questioned the union government’s reluctance to increase the allocation for the state, especially in light of the Chamrajnagar tragedy. A bench led by Karnataka Chief Justice AS Oka had asked the Union government, “Do you want more people to die? If your process is defective, we are not interested in your process. We are interested in oxygen.”
The HC had also asked the Union government counsel what the rationale was behind giving more oxygen to states which have a low caseload compared to states which are suffering from a high caseload.
It is to be noted that use of liquid oxygen is controlled by the Union government and the state cannot exceed the cap even if the oxygen is produced within the state. And Bengaluru having two-thirds of Karnataka’s cases, is facing an acute crunch. In numbers Bengaluru had seen 14,402 new cases in March, 87,249 cases in April and 44,497 cases in May already. In contrast, the number of cases in February were 6,361