Supreme Court forms 12-member oxygen task force to fight COVID emergency

NEW DELHI:  To ensure scientific allocation of medical oxygen to all states and Union Territories, the Supreme Court on Saturday constituted a national task force.

This 12-member task force will be formulating a methodology to achieve the goal. The order comes at a time when hospitals almost across the country have been complaining of shortage and blaming the Centre for not providing sufficient oxygen to handle the Covid-19 situation.

The 24-page order by a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said this task force would be at liberty to draw upon human resources of the Union government for consultation and information. It would also be free to formulate its modalities and procedure for working.

“The rationale for constituting a task force at the national level is to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic based on scientific and specialized knowledge,” the order reads.

The court said a consensus has been reached that there is a need to ensure the necessary supply of oxygen to the states and UTs on a scientific, rational, and equitable basis. It added that it must allow for flexibility to meet unforeseen demands due to emergencies. The tenure of the task force will of six months initially.

The Centre has been asked to provide assistance and nominate two nodal officers, who will also be responsible for arranging logistics, including communication with members and arranging virtual meetings. “The court suggested that an expert body of renowned national experts with diverse experience in health institutions can be considered for being set up as a national task force, which will provide a public health response to the pandemic on the basis of a scientific approach,” the order reads.

It added that it’s necessary to have an effective and transparent mechanism and that the Centre has agreed to set up a national task force. The court said this 12-member team may constitute one or more sub-groups on specialized areas or regions, before finalizing its recommendations. The task force may also consider it appropriate to co-opt or seek the assistance of other experts within or outside government.

The Centre and state governments shall provide complete and real-time data to the task force. “Private hospitals and healthcare institutions shall co-operate with the task force,” said the court, adding that it expects leading experts to associate with the task force as members and resource persons.

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