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Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, who is heading the Supreme Court bench for scanning the Centre’s policy and preparedness in management of the second Covid-19 wave, has tested positive for coronavirus, court administration said on Wednesday.
The bench, which also includes justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, was supposed to take up the suo motu (on its own motion) matter on Thursday. However, the case may now get deferred to some other date because of justice Chandrachud’s indisposition.
Besides, as per a circular issued by the Supreme Court, Thursday may get declared a holiday if Eid is to be celebrated on Thursday, depending on the sighting of the moon. All the cases will be heard on Friday if Thursday is declared a holiday.
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It is still not clear if the other two judges on the suo motu bench will resume hearing the case on Friday in the absence of justice Chandrachud. Chief justice of India NV Ramana, who is the master of roster, also has the option of constituting another bench with some other senior judge to head it.
The Supreme Court on Monday had said that the matter will be heard on May 13 as the virtual proceedings were encountering technical glitches and the deferment will give judges more time to go through the government affidavit which was filed late last night.
The three-judge bench said, “Our server is down today. We judges had discussion among ourselves and have decided to take up the matter on Thursday”.
Taking stock of the grim situation, another bench led by justice Chandrachud on May 8 said the central government’s policy on allocating medical oxygen supplies to states needed a “complete revamp”, highlighting what it said were the “most obvious points” of considerations overlooked by the expert committee.
Observing that it was inclined to set up a committee to review the Centre’s policy, the bench of justices Chandrachud and MR Shah found fault with the Centre’s formula to link allocation of oxygen to only the number of beds in the hospitals of a state and its active cases.
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“Your formula requires a complete revamp. Now, we tell you the practical problem is that when you prepared this formula, not everyone required oxygen or bed but many patients today require oxygen even at home. Your formula takes into account number of beds in hospitals but not those who will require it at home because there are no beds available anywhere,” it told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who represented the Union government.
The court added that the formula, which computed total requirement of a state on the basis that 50% of the non-ICU beds required 10 litres of oxygen per minute, while 100% percent of the ICU beds required 24 litres per minute, also failed to take note of oxygen requirements for ambulances and Covid care facilities, besides the logistical issues regarding its transportation, turnaround time etc.
On the grim oxygen crisis in the country resulting in deaths of Covid-19 patients, the Supreme Court on May 8 set up a National Task Force for an effective and transparent mechanism for allocating medical oxygen in view of a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The Apex Court bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, constituted National Task Force (NTF) to assess and recommend the need and distribution of oxygen in the country.