New Delhi, May 4: The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed the Centre to show cause as to why contempt not be initiated against it for failing to comply with order on supply of oxygen to Delhi for treating COVID-19 patients.
You can put your head in sand like an ostrich, we will not, the high court to the central government.
It added that the Supreme Court has already directed, and now the high court is also saying that the Centre will have to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to Delhi right away by whatever means.
"You are part of the city and seeing the situation yourself. No, you don't know. Are you living in ivory towers?," the bench said.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli also rejected the Centre's submission that Delhi was not entitled to 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen in light of existing medical infrastructure.
It said the Supreme Court's April 30 detailed order directed the central government to provide 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi and not just 490 MT.
We had told you contempt is the last thing in our mind but it is certainly in our mind and don't drive us to that last point. We mean business now. Enough is enough. Be clear on this. We are not going to take no for an answer. There is no way you won't supply 700 MT.
There is Supreme Court order and now we are also saying that you will have to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to Delhi right away by whatever means. We would not hear anything except compliance, an annoyed bench orally observed.
The bench, which heard for nearly five hours the matter relating to oxygen crisis and other COVID-19 related issues that Delhi is grappling with, said, We see grim reality everyday of people not able to secure oxygen or ICU beds in hospitals which have reduced beds due to the gas shortage.
"We, therefore, direct the central government to show cause why contempt be not initiated for not only non-compliance of our order of May as also of order of the Supreme Court dated April 30. To answer the said notice, we direct the presence of Piyush Goyal and Sumita Dawra (senior Central government officers) tomorrow, it said.
The bench also said just because the Delhi government earlier demanded less oxygen, therefore the people of this city should suffer and the Centre will ignore the revised requirement and will let people die.
On the submission of ASG Chetan Sharma that the compliance affidavit of April 30 order will be filed in the Supreme Court by tomorrow morning, the bench we fail to understand what good a compliance affidavit will be do when as a matter of fact 700 MT of oxygen is not delivered to Delhi. Even the earlier allocated 490 MT and revised 590 MT is not delivered even for a single day.
Sharma submitted that the apex court has not directed supply of 700 MT of oxygen per day to Delhi.
The court disagreed with him and said a plain reading of the top court's order showed that it had directed the central government to supply 700 MT of liquid medical oxygen by making good the deficit.
The bench noted that the apex court's order recorded Delhi government counsel's submission that as against the demand of 700 MT of oxygen per day, manufacturers have been able to supply only 440 MT.
It said the apex court noted that the projected demand of Delhi in coming days will be 976 MT of oxygen by increasing the medical infrastructure and that the situation must be remedied forthwith.
It asked as to what does this direction of the apex court mean and what was the doubt in it. This itself is sufficient to show that the Supreme Court has directed that Delhi should be provided with 700 MT of oxygen per day. If there was any doubt, it could be cleared by further reading of the paragraph."
The bench said the top court had noted the assurance given by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the national capital with not suffer and its demands of oxygen will be met.
However, the high court said this assurance has not been met and it has seen how big and small hospitals have been rushing to court on SOS basis due to lack of oxygen to treat critical patients.
It pains us that the aspect of supply of oxygen for treatment of COVID-19 patients in Delhi should be viewed in the way it has been done by the Centre, it said.
It added that on one hand there is need to augment capacities to meet the rising numbers, while on the other hand, the existing infrastructure is crumbling and available beds cannot be put to use.
After the court dictated its order, ASG Sharma said that he has taken the order and it may be uploaded tomorrow morning only.
To this, the bench said, "No, we will upload it today itself."
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New Delhi, May 16: The Centre directed Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on Sunday to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and its tributaries, and focus on their safe disposal and a dignified cremation after corpses were seen floating in these rivers following a spurt in the number of coronavirus cases.
At a review meeting conducted on May 15-16, the Centre said dumping of dead bodies and partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the Ganga and its tributaries has recently been reported, which is "most undesirable and alarming".
"Namami Gange directs states to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and focus on their safe disposal and providing support for ensuring dignified cremation," the Jal Shakti Ministry said.
The state pollution control boards were directed to monitor the water quality more frequently in consultations with the health departments.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was assigned the task of overall monitoring, providing guidance to the state pollution control boards and taking up advanced analysis in the matter.
Support for cremation needs to be given top priority. Effective implementation of the government orders needs to be ensured. No loss of time should take place in implementation, the ministry said.
An advisory was issued by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, to the district magistrates, who are also the chairpersons of the district Ganga committees, on May 11.
This was followed up by a letter the next day to the chief secretaries to prevent the dumping of dead bodies in the river and ensure enforcement of the government guidelines on the cremation of COVID-19 victims.
The letter also advised the states to provide financial assistance as well as regulate the rates for the cremation or burial process.
On May 15, the steps taken in this regard in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were reviewed at a meeting chaired Pankaj Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, and further action points were decided.
Highlighting the instructions already given, Kumar had called for expeditious action and underscored the need to give equal attention to such incidents in urban and rural areas along the Ganga and other rivers.
"Stopping of dumping of dead bodies as well as their safe disposal and protection of water quality have to be ensured on a war footing. After knowing the progress from the states, the CWC (Central Water Commission), the CPCB and the state pollution control boards would also be giving their feedback and action plans," he had said.
Mishra stated that the situation is being monitored and follow-up action is being taken in several districts such as Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur and Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Buxar and Saran in Bihar.
However, some cases have also been reported from other districts. He asked the state missions to keep an eye on the situation.
Mishra emphasised the need to strengthen enforcement, maintain vigil and take proactive action to facilitate and support the families for the cremation of the bodies and asked the state missions to specifically report on this.
"If needed, the project directors can assess and also give support to the district Ganga committees for this out of the NMCG funds available with them, while keeping the NMCG informed," he said.
Rajnish Dubey, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development, and Anurag Shrivastav, Principal Secretary, Jal Shakti and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, represented Uttar Pradesh in the meeting.
Shrivastava said all the district magistrates have been alerted about the issue and patrolling is being carried out to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga.
He also informed that 13 crematoria under Namami Gange, in addition to the existing ones, have been made available for the cremation of dead bodies.
It was informed that orders have been issued for financial support for cremations in urban areas. Dubey said similar orders for a financial support of Rs 5,000 have been issued by the Panchayati Raj department for rural areas and the SDRF and other forces have also been asked to carry out patrolling.
Anand Kishore, Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, Government of Bihar, informed that it has been decided that the cremation or burial expenses of those dying due to COVID-19 will be borne by the state government.
He added that even if the deceased did not have a COVID-positive report but showed symptoms of the disease, the family will be offered this support.
He also said patrolling is being done to prevent further dumping of dead bodies in the river, especially in districts like Buxar and Saran (Chhapra).
CWC Chairman S K Halder informed that they are monitoring the flow and the water quality of the river through their stations and will further increase the frequency.
CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava said the board has forewarned all water monitoring stations along the Ganga and her tributaries. The periodicity of testing the water quality has also been increased.
Debashree Mukherjee, Additional Secretary with the Jal Shakti Ministry, stated that besides an urgent assessment of the risks to the riverside communities by the pollution control boards, there is a need to raise awareness on the dos and don'ts as regards the use of river water and to prevent such incidents of dumping of bodies in the river.