Covid-19 a national emergency, draw up plan, Supreme Court tells Centre

Supreme Court | File photo

On a day when India touched a grim world record of highest single-day increases in cases, an alarmed Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the handling of the second wave of Covid-19 and asked the central government to come up with a “national plan” on issues including supply of oxygen and essential drugs.


The SC directed the Centre to file a response on four critical issues. “We want to know with regard to four issues — supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination. We want to keep the power to declare lockdown to the state and this should not be by judicial decision…,” the Bench said.


Chief Justice of India SA Bobde will hear the matter on Friday and appointed senior advocate Harish Salve to assist the court in this matter. “There is a lot of chaos happening. Some are using intemperate language, even the high court judges have lost their cool,” said CJI Bobde. The apex court also took note of the fact that at least six high courts are hearing petitions filed by exasperated citizens.


“The high courts are rightly exercising their jurisdiction, but this is creating a lot of confusion and diversion of resources. One high court thinks they may have greater priority over other jurisdictions, but this may not possibly be even-handed,” the CJI said. The Bench, also comprising Justices L N Rao and S R Bhat, said it did not intend to supersede the orders of any states. “If the Centre had any national plan drafted, it could present the same before the concerned high courts,” he said.


As central and state governments scrambled to protect lives across the country, several high courts — Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, and Allahabad – criticised the respective state governments for failing to control the situation. The judicial intervention came as several patients were unable to even get tested for Covid-19 at many places, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.


Delhi HC


The Delhi HC observed that the situation in the national capital has turned “precarious” with many hospitals running out of oxygen and directed the Centre to ensure the gas is supplied without any hindrances.


“We all know that this country is being run by god," observed an anguish bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli which was of the view that all measures should be taken for removing obstructions in the transportation of oxygen.


Bombay HC


The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Centre and the Maharashtra government to file their respective replies by May 4 on the management of available resources, including hospital beds, Remdesivir drug, vaccines and oxygen, to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.


The court said there had to be a portal for availability of essential Covid-19 drugs. “You should realise this is an emergency situation. The situation is getting grim with each passing day,” it said.


The Telangana HC directed the state to file its response on a decision to impose a complete lockdown. On Thursday, the Madras High Court Chief Justice also took suo motu notice of media reports on the diversion of Remdesivir, along with the shortage of oxygen. The HC recorded the advocate general’s submission that the state may never see a shortage of oxygen supply even if there was an unforeseen peak.  The TN government also assured that there are sufficient beds available in govt hospitals and many more in private hospitals.


The Gujarat HC asked the state government to formulate a policy for the distribution of Remdesivir injections to hospitals in view of the high demand of the key anti-Covid-19 drug.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel