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‘National emergency-like situation’: SC asks Centre to submit plan on Covid preparedness

Noting that India was currently facing a national emergency like situation, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre submit its plan on Covid preparedness.

    New Delhi April 22, 2021: The Supreme Court on Thursday took the suo moto cognizance of the several high court hearings underway regarding Covid-19 preparedness across the country and issued a notice to the Centre on the supply of Covid care essentials, such as oxygen and medicines.

Noting that India was currently facing a national emergency-like situation, the SC bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde asked the Centre to submit its plan on Covid preparedness, including the details of the nationwide vaccination drive plan.

The bench, which also included justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageshwar Rao, noted that currently six high courts, including Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Odisha, Calcutta and Allahabad, were hearing matters related to Covid preparedness. “It’s creating diversion and confusion,” the CJI noted.  therefore, said that it will issue a notice to the Centre on four issues: supply of oxygen; supply of essential drugs; – method and manner of vaccination; and power to declare lockdown.

The CJI noted that the right to impose lockdown should be reserved with the states and not the courts should not have a say in the matter. The SC’s observation on the matter came a few days after the apex court stayed an order issued by the Allahabad High Court to impose lockdown in several cities in Uttar PradeshAs the Delhi High Court is set to hear the issue of oxygen supply in the national capital at 3 PM today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the apex court whether it would stay the proceedings in the high courts.

The bench said that the government “may go ahead and present its plans to the high court. If you have a national plan for oxygen, definitely the high court will see it”. “We do not wish to supersede the high courts right now,” observed Justice Bhat, but the CJI clarified that the apex court “could withdraw some of the issues from the high courts to itself”.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, who is at present in London, has been appointed as amicus curiae in the case, as he was present in the video-conferencing hearing to represent the Vedanta-Sterlite company in a different petition.

Salve has said that his “Delhi office” will “coordinate with the solicitor general” about the case. The matter will now be heard on Friday.

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