Oxygen crisis: SC sets up 12-member Task Force for rational distribution

at 7:26 pm
Supreme Court (File photo)

New Delhi (NVI): As the country continued to witness chaos over oxygen, the Supreme Court today stepped in by setting up a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for its scientific and rational allocation to the states and Union Territories.

A two-member Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah said the rationale behind constituting the Task Force was to ensure a public health response to the pandemic, based on specialised domain knowledge.

The top court directed the Union Government and State Governments, Ministries, agencies and departments to provide complete and real time data for facilitating the work of the Task Force as and when necessary.

Private hospitals and other health care institutions shall co-operate with the Task Force, it ruled.

The significant decision of the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition, comes at a time when the unavailability and distribution of oxygen, desperately needed by Covid patients, has led to chaos in the country. Many patients have died in hospitals because of lack of oxygen and several hospitals have been often issuing SOS messages about the shortage of oxygen.

The Court said that during the course of hearing in the case, a consensus has emerged that there is a need to ensure that the allotments of medical oxygen to the States and UTs is made on a scientific, rational and equitable basis. At the same time, it must allow for flexibility to meet unforeseen demands due to emergencies, which may arise within the allocated territories.

The Bench said 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 future.

“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 establishment of this Task Force will enable the decision makers to have inputs, which go beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems,” the court said.

The Union Government has agreed to set up a National Task Force to streamline the process. This Task Force would be tasked, inter alia, with formulating a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to the States and UTs.

The Union Government has made its suggestions on the possible names for inclusion in the Task Force, while leaving its final composition to the Court.

The Court said the Task Force is at liberty to draw upon the human resources of the Union Government for consultation and information.