Buffer oxygen stock might have averted Chamarajanagar tragedy: Karnataka High Court

The Bench went on to note that the Government of India has offered no explanation as to why buffer stock (of oxygen) is not there in Karnataka despite Supreme Court's directions.

Buffer Oxygen stock could have averted the tragedy at the Chamarajanagar hospital where twenty-three patients died due to lack of oxygen, the Karnataka High Court remarked on Wednesday.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar further stated that even required quantities of oxygen are not being allotted by the Centre to the State amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"Perhaps, if buffer stock of oxygen was there, the Chamarajanagar incident would not have happened," the Court said.

The Bench went on to note that the Government of India has offered no explanation as to why buffer stock (of oxygen) is not there in Karnataka despite Supreme Court's directions.

On the point of the Chamarajanagar incident, the Court appointed a committee headed by retired Justice AN Venugopal Gowda to look into the same and submit a report to the Court.

"KSLSA Committee is headed by by A N Venugopal Gowda, former judge of this court. It will be appropriate if this committee looks into the incident which has taken place at Chamarajanagar. We direct the Chief Secretary who is in custody of the record to allow the committee headed by A N Venugopal Gowda, to access the records. We expect the committee to submit its report by next Monday. Needless to add that state govt officers will render cooperation to said committee. As ultimate object of the committee will be to make fact finding inquiry. It will be useful for state to ensure that such unwarranted incidents do not occur in state hereafter."

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The Court was hearing a case registered suo motu after the Court received two letters on Covid-19 Management in the state.

During the hearing, the Bench was informed that from 865 metric tonnes (MT), the Centre had increased the allotted amount of oxygen to the State to 965 MT.

Earlier, the Court was informed that the quantity of oxygen was increased from 802 MT oxygen to 865 MT.

However, the estimated oxygen requirement in the State as of April 30 was 1,471 MT per day in the State, the Bench was told.

Thereafter, the Court was prompt to note that as of April 28 , there were over over 3 lakh active COVID-19 cases. On April 29, there were over 3,28,000 active cases. As on May 4, there were 4,64,363 active cases and 44,631 fresh cases in Karnataka.

Noting the increase in COVID-19 cases, the Bench recorded,

"There is a huge jump in the number of active cases in the State."

The Court was further told that out of the quota of 865 MT of oxygen, 30 MT was to be taken from Visakhapatnam, 80 MT from Orissa, 60 MT from Telangana and 20 MT from Kerala. It takes about 48 hours to fill 4 tankers and may take more time to reach time. That is why State could not take the quota allotted from Visakhapatnam and other far-off places, the Court was apprised by the State.

After hearing the counsel, the Court passed the following directions:

  • Centre to once again consider the representation of State government dated April 30 seeking more quantity of oxygen.

  • State to submit an additional representation seeking more quantity of oxygen, based on the projected requirement of oxygen, for a week. The decision to be taken in 4 days.

  • Till then, Centre to increase cap of the quantity of oxygen to 1,162 MT.

  • Standing counsel should immediately communicate this order to Centre because the number of deaths in the State is rising due to lack of oxygen.

Similar directions were passed by the Court with regard to the supply of Remdesivir as well.

"Considering the gravity of situation, this shows that today's supply of Remdesivir is nearly 1/3 rd of requirement. On the supply of Remdesivir, Centre to take positive decision in 2 days," it ordered.

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[Read order here]

Karnataka COVID-19 order May 5.pdf
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