SC takes Suo Motu cognizance of alarming Covid situation, issues notice to Centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognizance of the “alarming situation” in connection with various health emergencies including oxygen shortage, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and issued notice to the Centre seeking a response on kinds of immediate and effective action it can take to handle such situation.

A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde and also comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat, took suo motu cognizance of the deficiency of oxygen, medicines, improper treatment and other related issues of COVID patients.

“We take suo motu cognisance”, the CJI Bobde said and observed that the “current situation is alarming.”
Keeping in view the present prevalent situation, due to the pandemic, the top court felt the necessity of a National plan on supply of oxygen, essential medicines, injections and vaccines, and issued notice to the Union of India (UOI) and posted the matter for further hearing on Friday (tomorrow).

The Court asked the Centre to present and apprise it as to whether a national plan can be prepared to handle this worrisome situation. It made these remarks, after noting and taking into record at least six different state High Courts have been hearing the matter on the same issues.

During the mentioning today, the Solicitor General (SG), Tushar Mehta, Senior law officer representing the UOI, told the Apex Court that “the country is in dire need of oxygen.”
“We must be in favour of protecting human lives,” the SG submitted to the Apex Court.

During the course of the hearing, the Centre and Vedanta moved Supreme Court seeking permission to reopen the plant only for the purpose of producing oxygen for supply of medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients.

Senior lawyer, and former Solicitor General, Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, told the Apex Court that the plant has been shut since 2018 over environmental violations.
The SC said: “We will take up the matter for hearing tomorrow.”

Salve argued that many “people are dying on daily basis. we can start in five to six days if you give a go ahead today.”
“The situation is alarming,” the CJI said.

He also added: “We have four issues primarily in mind. The supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, injections and other materials, manner of vaccination are among them.”

The Top Court also appointed Salve as an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) to assist the court in the matter.