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COVID-19 management: SC adjourns hearing to May 13 due to technical glitches


The Supreme Court Monday said it will hear on May 13 the suo motu case on management of COVID-19 as the virtual proceedings were encountering technical glitches and the deferment will give judges more time to go through the government affidavit which was filed late last night.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said, “Our server is down today. We judges had discussion among ourselves and have decided to take up the matter on Thursday”.

Justice Bhat further said that in the meantime judges will go through the Centre’s compliance affidavit filed late last night and even amicus curiae in the matter will get time to go through the response.

Before the technical glitches stalled the proceeding conducted through video conferencing, Justice Chandrachud referred to a news report and said that two of the judges of the bench got the Centre’s affidavit on Monday morning.

Justice Chandrachud said Justice Rao had to take the copy of affidavit from Justice Bhat in the morning as he had not received it.

“I got the affidavit late in the night but my brother judges have got it in the morning. I have even read affidavit in the media before I got it,” Justice Chandrachud said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that after they filed the affidavit, they served the copy to the state and it was very difficult to know from where the media got it.

On April 30, the top court had directed the Centre to prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes in collaboration with states and decentralise the location of the stocks so that it is immediately available if the normal supply chain is disrupted.

It had said the emergency stocks be created within the next four days and replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of medical oxygen supply to the states.

Noting that the situation on the ground in Delhi is heart-rending, the top court had also directed the Centre to ensure that the deficit in the supply of oxygen to the national capital is rectified before May 3 midnight.

It had said “lives of citizens cannot be put in jeopardy in the battle of shifting responsibility of supply of oxygen” and added that “The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the central government and the GNCTD to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation”.

On the issue of treatment in hospitals, the top court had directed the Centre to formulate within two weeks a national policy on admissions to hospitals in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19.

It had also directed the Centre and the state governments to notify that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking help on any platform will attract coercive action.

The top court had also directed the Centre to revisit its initiatives and protocols, including the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, and availability of essential drugs at affordable prices.

The top court has taken up issues such as the projected demand for oxygen in the country at present and in the near future, how the government intends to allocate it to “critically affected” states and its monitoring mechanism to ensure supply.

It had earlier made clear that any attempt to clamp down on the free flow of information on social media, including a call for help from people, would be treated as contempt of the court.

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