Supreme Court sets up 12-member National Task Force to ensure oxygen supply

By: |
May 09, 2021 4:30 AM

According to the Bench, the setting up NTF will enable the decision makers to have inputs which go beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems.

oxygen, covidThe Union Government would have to take decision on recommendations of the task force, which has to start working immediately and would continue for a period of six months. The Task Force is supposed to take up and determine the “pressing issue” of the modalities of oxygen within a week.

The Supreme Court has set up a 12-member National Task Force (NTF) of top medical experts to ensure “effective and transparent” allocation of medical oxygen to states and Union Territories for saving lives of Covid-19 patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said “the rationale for constituting a Task Force at a national level is to facilitate public health response to the pandemic based on scientific and specialised domain knowledge.”

The court said that leading experts shall associate themselves with the task force, as members and resource persons, to facilitate the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with public health response, including the supply of oxygen and essential drugs, based on scientific and specialised domain knowledge. The NTF will enable the decision makers to have inputs which go beyond finding ad hoc solutions to the current problems, the judges said in a 24-page order released on Saturday.

“We expect that the leading experts in the country shall associate with the work of the Task Force both as members and resource persons. This will facilitate a meeting of minds and the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with an unprecedented human crisis,” the court explained.

According to the Bench, the setting up NTF will enable the decision makers to have inputs which go beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems.

“This will ensure that projected future requirements can be scientifically mapped in the present and may be modulated in the light of experiences gained. The establishment of the task force will provide the Union government with inputs and strategies for meeting the challenges of the pandemic on a transparent and professional basis, in the present and in the future,” the order stated.

The term of reference of the Task Force as set out by the SC includes to assess and recommend the availability and distribution of medical oxygen across the country, formulate a methodology for its equitable distribution, recommend ways to augment the oxygen supply based on present and projected demands, facilitate audits on whether supply is reaching its destination in States, efficacy of distribution networks, transparent distribution of available oxygen stocks, among others.

The Union Government would have to take decision on recommendations of the task force, which has to start working immediately and would continue for a period of six months. The Task Force is supposed to take up and determine the “pressing issue” of the modalities of oxygen within a week.

The members of the Task Force are Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice-Chancellor, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Devender Singh Rana, chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Devi Prasad Shetty, chairperson and executive director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Gagandeep Kang, professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; J V Peter, director, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Naresh Trehan, chairperson and managing director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram; Rahul Pandit, director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund (Mumbai, Maharashtra) and Kalyan (Maharashtra); Saumitra Rawat, chairman & head of the department of surgical gastroenterology and liver transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Shiv Kumar Sarin, senior professor and head of department of hepatology, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Science (ILBS), Delhi; Zarir F. Udwadia, consultant chest physician, Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital and Parsee General Hospital, Mumbai; secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, Government of India (ex officio member); and the convenor of the National Task Force, who shall also be a member, will be the Cabinet secretary to the central government. The cabinet secretary may nominate an officer not below the rank of additional secretary to depute for him, when necessary.

To ensure a measure of accountability for the proper distribution of oxygen supplies made available by the Centre to the states/UTs, the audits in states would be done by sub-groups or committees comprising a secretary to the state government, an additional/joint secretary to the Centre, two medical doctors in the state/UT concerned including at least one with administrative experience of managing the medical facilities of a hospital; a Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation representative.

For Delhi, the audit sub-group would consist of Randeep Guleria, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine and sleep, AIIMS; Sandeep Budhiraja, clinical director & director – internal medicine, Max Healthcare; and an IAS officer, each from the Union government and GNCTD, not below the rank of Joint Secretary.

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