Supreme Court seeks Centre’s response to support Oxygen, Drug logistics

As various state governments scamper for oxygen supplies and essential drugs for Covid-19 patients, the Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Centre’s response on coordination of logistical support for inter-state and intra-state transportation and distribution of oxygen and essential drugs.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, said: “The situation in various parts of the country is grim. There seems to be a sudden surge in the number of Covid patients and mortality.”

The bench noted that drugs, oxygen and vaccination availability and distribution must be done in an even-handed manner according to the advice of the health authorities which undoubtedly take into account relevant factors like severity, susceptibility, the number of people affected and the local availability of resources.

“We expect the Central government to place before this Court a national plan for dealing with the above services and supplies during pandemic,” the top court said in its order.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice observed: “The present situation is like national emergency.”

The bench added: “In these circumstances, we direct that notices be issued to the Union government, the state Governments/Union Territories and the parties, who appeared to have approached the High Courts to show cause why uniform orders be not passed by this Court in relation to a) Supply of oxygen; b) Supply of essential drugs; c) Method and manner of vaccination; and d) Declaration of lockdown.”

The top court sought a report from Centre on the existence and requirement of setting up of a coordinating body that would consider allocation of resources in a consultative manner (with the involvement of states and Union Territories concerned).

“Considering declaration of essential medicines and medical equipment including the above articles as essential commodities in relation to Covid. In respect of coordination of logistical support for inter-state and intra-state transportation and distribution of the above resources,” said the top court, seeking Centre’s response.

The top court also noted that High Courts across the country are hearing petitions in connection with crisis of oxygen supply, hospital beds and shortage of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir in hospitals.

The bench noted that six High Courts — Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, MP, Calcutta and Allahabad — were dealing with issues related with Covid management and it was creating confusion.

“The High Courts have passed certain orders which may have the effect of accelerating and prioritising the services to a certain set of people and slowing down the availability of these resources to certain other groups whether the groups are local, regional or otherwise,” said the top court.

It also appointed senior advocate Harish Salve as amicus curiae in the matter.

The bench will continue with hearing on the matter on Friday.

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