Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 22
The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of issues relating to Covid management and issued notice to the Centre on issues such as supply of oxygen and essential drugs, method of vaccination and judicial power to impose lockdowns.
A Bench led by CJI SA Bobde said it intended to transfer to itself some of the issues pending in various high courts.
Noting that high courts of Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta and Allahabad were dealing with issues related to Covid, the top court asked the Centre to present a national plan to face the health crisis.
"They are exercising jurisdiction in best interest. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources," it said, adding "We are almost in a national emergency."
Appointing senior advocate Harish Salve as amicus curiae to assist it, the Bench posted the matter for Friday.
The top court said it broadly wanted to take up four issues - supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and the power to declare lockdown.
"We want the power to clear lockdown to be with states and it should not be a judicial decision," the CJI said while issuing notice to the Centre.
The development comes a day after the Delhi High Court pulled up the Centre and Delhi Government over lack of adequate supply of oxygen to hospitals in the national capital.
While asking the government to ensure supply of oxygen to hospitals "forthwith", the high court had posted the matter for Thursday.
"Do we respond to high courts now or we respond here?" Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought to know from the Bench.
"We will issue notice to the Centre and then we will issue notice to high courts...eventually we will bring some issues here," the CJI said.
Mehta said, "In the meanwhile, we will inform the high courts that you (SC) have taken suo motu cognisance."
The Bench told Mehta that it didn't intend to supersede any order of high courts for now.
In a related development, the Centre and Vedanta moved the top court seeking permission to reopen the company's Tamil Nadu plant - shut down since 2018 over alleged violation of environmental norms - only for the purpose of producing and supplying of medical oxygen to Covid patients.
On behalf of Vedanta, Salve sought permission to reopen the company's Tuticorin plant, saying it could produce 1,000 tonnes of oxygen there every day and it was ready to supply all 1,000 tonnes free of cost.
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