The directions were passed by the SC in a suo motu case for ensuring essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes in collaboration with states and decentralise the location of the stocks so that it is immediately available if the normal supply chain is disrupted.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said the emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of medical oxygen supply to the states.
“We direct the central government in collaboration with the states to prepare a buffer stock of oxygen to be used for emergency purposes to ensure supply lines continue to function even in unforeseen circumstances. The location of the emergency stocks shall be decentralised so as to be immediately available if the normal supply chain is disrupted to any hospital for any reason,” the bench said.
“The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days. The replenishment of the emergency stocks will also be monitored on a real-time basis through the virtual control room in active consultation with each state/UT. This is in addition to the day to day allocations,” it added.
Noting that the situation on the ground in Delhi is heart-rending, the top court also directed the Centre to ensure that the deficit in the supply of oxygen to the national capital is rectified before May 3 midnight.
It said lives of citizens cannot be put in jeopardy in the battle of shifting responsibility of supply of oxygen.
“The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the central government and the GNCTD to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation,” the bench also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat said.
On the issue of treatment in hospitals, the top court directed the Centre to formulate within two weeks a national policy on admissions to hospitals in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19.
“Till the formulation of such a policy by the central government, no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state/UT for lack of local residential proof of that state/UT or even in the absence of identity proof,” the bench said.