The Delhi High Court has ordered the Government to provide information on oxygen concentrators that are awaiting clearance with the customs department.
In the midst of Delhi’s terrible oxygen crisis caused by the virulent second wave of coronavirus, oxygen concentrators are in high demand by hospitals running low on oxygen and patients on home isolation.
The shortage has been blamed for nearly 40 deaths in the city’s hospitals. On Saturday, 12 people died at Batra Hospital after oxygen was cut off for 80 minutes. One of the patients was a doctor. The week prior, 25 people died.
Today, senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal asked the court to order the customs department to clear the oxygen concentrators on a war footing. He also said that Max Hospital’s 3,000 concentrators are awaiting clearance at customs.
The court inquired as to how many oxygen concentrators were lying in customs. Centre said, “This is a changing number. There is a court order requiring the clearance process to be completed within three hours.”
When asked whether there was a delay in clearance, the centre said it was unsure because all is being cleared quickly. Nothing may be pending after three hours, the center said, adding that 48,000 consignments had already been cleared.
When the court stated that it was dissatisfied with the response, the Centre affirmed that it would investigate and inform the court.
Later, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs tweeted that the government had told the court that no consignment was pending with customs.
With the increased demand for oxygen concentrators, it has been included in medical aid sent by many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
The center has also permitted the importation of oxygen concentrators for personal use (a system that filters out other gases from ambient air and channels pure oxygen).
The court ordered that Delhi obtain its maximum quota of medical oxygen that day by whatever means during a rare sitting on Saturday.
Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli said, “The water has risen over the shoulders. You must now organize everything. You have made the required allocations. You must carry it out. There have been eight fatalities. We can’t turn our backs on it.”
The question of oxygen shortages has also reached the Supreme Court, which ordered last week that the shortfall in Delhi’s oxygen supply must be corrected by May 3 at midnight.