Workers refill medical oxygen cylinders meant for Covid-19 patients, before dispatching them to hospitals, at a facility amid surge in coronavirus cases, in Bengaluru (PTI)
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere with the Karnataka high court order directing the Centre to allocate 1,200 MT of medical oxygen to the state, saying it was a reasoned order and turned down the Centre’s plea to stay it. At the outset, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said they had read the order of the HC and did not find any fault in it.
The bench said it was a “judicious and calibrated exercise of power” by the HC and no interference was required. The bench also cited the projections by the BJP government in Karnataka about the quantum of oxygen needed by the state to stand by the HC.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta , however, contended that the Centre is ready to sit with the state government to sort out the issue but the high court should not have passed the order. He told the bench that the entire system put in place to handle the pandemic would collapse if all high courts started passing direction for supply of oxygen to their states. He insisted that there was a need to have a pan-India vision and courts should resist from taking a state-centric approach.
“We are not averse to reasonable demands of the states. We have limited quantity of oxygen and we have to cater to the needs of all states. The Centre and states can sit together and decide on allocation of oxygen,” Mehta said.
‘It is imperative that the limited resources available be put to its most judicious use, keeping in mind the overall situation in the country. Thereby, passing directions in the nature and manner the HC has done, would ultimately lead to mismanagement of resources and create a further chaotic environment in an already overburdened system,” the Centre said.
The apex court, however, was not convinced with the submission and said the HC had passed a reasoned order giving justification for supply of 1,200 MT oxygen as the state government itself had sought 1,162 MT.
“The HC has furnished adequate reasons for issuing a calibrated ad-interim direction. The direction of the HC is evidently an ad-interim direction, subject to such calibration as would be necessitated after the state of Karnataka and the Union government have mutually attempted to resolve the issue. The order of the HC does not preclude a mutual resolution by the two governments, since the proceedings are still pending,” the bench said.
“The HC order is based on the need to maintain at least a minimum requirement as projected by the state government until a decision on the representation is taken. Hence, without enquiring into the wider issues sought to be raised at this stage (and keeping them open) there is no reason to entertain the petition,” it said. The court also noted that allocation for Karnataka stood at 802 MTs prior to April 30 and has been increased to 856 MT from May 1 and 965 MT from May 5.