Covid-19 ’emergency’: SC asks Centre to submit vaccine, oxygen supply plan

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April 23, 2021 4:11 AM

The top court sought response on four issues — supply of oxygen and essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and power to declare lockdown.

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) in IndiaLater on Tuesday, the SC stayed the HC order, but asked the UP government to report to the HC within a week on the steps being taken so far to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.

Taking suo motu cognizance of the several high court hearings underway regarding Covid-19 preparedness across the country, the Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from the Centre on the management of the crisis and supply of Covid-care essentials like oxygen and medicines as cases are surging all over.

Noting that India was now facing a “national emergency-like situation,” a Bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde and justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageshwar Rao asked the Centre to submit its plan on Covid preparedness, including the details of the nationwide vaccination drive plan.

The top court sought response on four issues — supply of oxygen and essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and power to declare lockdown.

The bench also noted that six high courts — Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Odisha, Calcutta and Allahabad — were hearing matters related to Covid preparedness. “We as a court wish to take suo motu cognizance of certain issues. We find that there are six HCs exercising jurisdiction in the best interest. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources,” the apex court said.

“We want the power to clear lockdown to be with states and should not be a judicial decision. We issue notice to the Central government on these issues,” the judges said in view of the Allahabad High Court imposing impose lockdown in five cities of Uttar Pradesh on Monday.

Later on Tuesday, the SC stayed the HC order, but asked the UP government to report to the HC within a week on the steps being taken so far to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The top court also appointed senior counsel Harish Salve as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter. Salve, who is in London, told the Bench that his Delhi office will “coordinate with the Solicitor General” in this regard.

While stating that it was imperative for reporting on these issues to be directly to Supreme Court, it observed that a national plan was necessary to deal with these issues. However, the CJI said that it will examine whether to transfer the cases from HCs to itself at a later stage.

“If you have a national plan for oxygen, definitely the high court will see it. It is not to supersede any order as of now. You can submit that plan to HCs,” Justice Ravindra Bhat told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who asked the apex court whether it would stay the proceedings in the high courts, including Delhi HC.

The matter will now be heard on Friday.

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