The Supreme Court on Thursday took a suo motu cognisance of the present Covid-19 situation of the country, including oxygen and essential drugs supply, vaccination, lockdown etc., and asked the Centre to present a national plan on Covid-19 management, covering all these issues.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said that notice to the Union of India will be issued.
Noting that at least six high courts are hearing matters pertaining to Covid-19 management, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said this is creating some confusion and diversion. The CJI said the apex court wants to issue notice for a national plan which includes four issues: supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, the method and manner of vaccination and the power to declare lockdowns.
“We as a court wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues. We find that there are 6 High Courts -Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta and Allahabad. They are exercising jurisdiction in their best interest. We appreciate that. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources,” the CJI said.
The CJI said that the Court was proposing to take cognizance on four points, which are :
(a) supply of oxygen.
(b) supply of essential drugs.
(c)method and manner of vaccination.
(d)State’s power to declare lockdown.
“We want to issue notice for a national plan on these issues. We will issue notice and keep the matter tomorrow”, the CJI said.
At this point, noticing the presence of Senior Advocate Harish Salve in the VC session for another case, the CJI said :”Since Mr. Harish Salve is here, we want him to assist as amicus”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the bench if it was proposing to stay the proceedings in the High Courts.
The CJI replied that the Supreme Court might withdraw certain issues from the High Courts to the Supreme Court.
Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who was also part of the bench, told the Solicitor General that the Supreme Court was not intending to supersede any order of the High Court at present.
“Mr.Solicitor, you may go ahead and present your plan(before the High Courts). It is not to supersede any order(of High Court) as of now”, Justice Bhat told the SG.
However, the CJI added : “May be it is better to report directly to the Supreme Court. We will see that later. Anyway we will issue notice and consider matter tomorrow”.
The Solicitor General said that he will intimate the High Courts that the Supreme Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the issues. Incidentally, the Delhi High Court is scheduled to consider today at 3 PM the matter related to oxygen supply in the hospitals in the national capital. In an urgent hearing held yesterday night, the Delhi High Court had emphasized that it was Centre’s responsibility to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply for medical emergency.
The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had yesterday, in yet another emergent hearing, had interfered with an order passed by the Union Health Ministry to cut down the oxygen supply to Maharashtra. The High Court ordered the restoration of earlier oxygen allocation, notwithstanding the Union Ministry’s order.