Supreme Court to hear plea on medical oxygen shortage during COVID-19 second wave

Petition seeks high-level inquiry.

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a high-level inquiry by a commission into the alleged non-supply and non-availability of medical oxygen for COVID-19 patients during the second wave of the pandemic from March to May this year.

The petition, which is scheduled to be taken up for hearing on Monday by a bench of justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B. V. Nagarathna, has alleged that non-availability of medical oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic had resulted in the death of several patients in various parts of the country.

The plea, filed by a Delhi resident, has also urged the apex court to direct a court-monitored inquiry by the CBI or any other investigating agency in the matter relating to non-availability of medical oxygen in the months of March to May this year.

It has sought a high-level inquiry by a commission headed by a retired judge of the apex court or retired Chief Justice of any high court in the matter.

It said that the inquiry would identify negligence on the part of officials, if any, that had led to the shortage of medical oxygen supply.

The plea has arrayed the Centre and others, including the National Disaster Management Authority and health departments of several states, as respondents.

“This court through its various judgements has logically extended the interpretation of the right to life to include the right to health,” the plea read.

“Therefore, it is the fundamental duty of the State to care for the health of the public at large,” the petitioner has said in his plea filed through advocate Rajeev Kumar Dubey.

It has also referred to media reports about the death of COVID-19 patients allegedly due to the shortage of medical oxygen.

The plea said medical oxygen is an essential and critical life-saving drug and its shortage had resulted in several untimely deaths in the country during the second wave of the pandemic.

In May this year, the apex court, which hearing a separate matter, had constituted a 12-member National Task Force of top medical experts to formulate a methodology for allocation of oxygen to states and union territories for saving lives of COVID-19 patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.

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