The Supreme Court, in an order issued Sunday evening, ordered the central government to ensure that the nation’s oxygen supply deficit is corrected within two days.

It also instructed the Center to prepare, in collaboration with States, a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and to decentralize the location of emergency stocks.

“Emergency stocks are to be created within the next four days and need to be replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the states,” the court said.

A bench of judges DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat also ordered the central government and state governments to inform all chief secretaries / directors general of police / police commissioners that any crackdown on media information social or harassment caused to individuals seeking or providing assistance on any platform will attract coercive exercise by the court against them.

“It is with deep distress that we note that people seeking help on such platforms have been targeted, alleging that the information published by them is false and has only been posted on social media to sow panic, defame the administration or harm the “national image”. We do not hesitate to say that such targeting will not be tolerated, “said the bench.

In these difficult times, the court said, those who desperately seek help for their loved ones on these platforms should not see their misery compounded by the actions of the state and its instruments.

He added that preventing crackdowns on information sharing on online platforms was not only in the interest of the individuals sharing the information, but in the broader democratic structures of our nation.

“Without the immediate availability of this information, it is entirely possible that the COVID-19 pandemic will turn into a tragedy worse than it already is,” the court said.

He added that large-scale information sharing would help create a “collective public memory” of this pandemic.

The bench said the court clerk would send a copy of the order to all district magistrates across the country.

In addition, the bench ordered the Center to formulate a national policy within two weeks on hospital admissions, which must be followed by all state governments.

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“Until such a policy is formulated by the central government, no patient will be able to be refused hospitalization or essential medicines in a state / UT for lack of local residential proof of that state / UT or even in the lack of proof of identity ”, the court mentioned.

He asked the Center to review its initiatives and protocols, including the availability of oxygen, the availability and price of vaccines, the availability of essential drugs at affordable prices, while suggesting that the Center and state governments are considering a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events.

They may also consider imposing a lockdown to stem the virus in Wave 2 in the interest of public welfare. However, he clarified that if a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made in advance to meet the needs of marginalized communities, he said.

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On the issue of increasing the health workforce, the court recommended that the Center examine whether a large number of medical, nursing and pharmacy students graduating in 2020 and on track to graduate in 2021, would be available for employment.

He said the Center should also consider using health personnel available with the armed forces and paramilitary forces for vaccination purposes.

The court will now hear the case on May 10.

Click here to read the order

The article was originally published in The booklet.