Bengaluru: Taking suo motu cognizance of the 24 deaths at two Covid-19 hospitals in a span of 24 hours allegedly due to shortage of oxygen, the Karnataka high court on Tuesday suggested a judicial probe by a retired judge into the matter.
The court also put the Union government on notice, seeking an urgent response as to how they intend to fix the oxygen demand-supply gap.
On Monday, 24 patients died in Chamarajanagar district, about 175km from Bengaluru, after a district government hospital reportedly ran out of oxygen.
Terming the incident as “serious”, a division bench of Chief justice Abhay Oka and justice Aravind Kumar said: “Around 24 people died. Advocate general (Prabhuling Navdagi who was representing state government), we suggest there should be a judicial probe into the incident by a retired judge of the high court.”
The court’s recommendation came even as Navdagi said the government had ordered an inquiry by an IAS officer into the incident and sought a report by Wednesday evening.
The bench made the suggestion after it received two letters describing the poor facilities for Covid-19 patients across the state.
After Navdagi informed the bench that Chamarajanagar hospital had made a requisition for 300 cylinders of oxygen, the bench said: “Is it not a fact that requisition was made for 300 cylinders, and it was not supplied? We are putting you (State) to notice that a retired judicial officer has to be appointed for conducting an inquiry in the incident.”
During the hearing, advocate Clifton Rozario, a city based lawyer, told the bench that there was a shortage of oxygen in the city.
“Yesterday (Monday), MEDAX hospital sent out an SOS on Twitter for supply of oxygen. Around 10 hospitals in Bengaluru sent SOS yesterday,” he said.
The Centre’s counsel M N Kumar informed the high court that the allocation of oxygen was increased to 865 metric tonnes from 802 metric tonnes.
The bench, however, put the Union government on notice, seeking an urgent response on how they intend to resolve the crisis.
“What is your explanation? The requirement of the state is 1,467 metric tonnes and you have increased it only to 865 (metric tonnes). Mr Kumar, are you not aware that people have died in the state due to non-availability of oxygen,” the bench asked.
“… we are putting you on notice. We want an answer from you whether you (Centre) will increase the cap on supply of oxygen to 1,700 metric tonnes. Let your officers know that there is an incident of people dying due to lack of oxygen. The state of Karnataka is recording the highest number of cases every day,” the bench said.
After Kumar told the court that steps will be taken by the Centre considering the requirement of other states, the bench said: “Is there any other city in the country which is getting 20,000 Covid-19 cases every day?”.
The bench added that the supply of oxygen has to be increased. “As of today (Tuesday), there is a shortfall of 900 metric tonnes per day of oxygen,” it said.
The city on Tuesday reported 20,870 cases and 132 deaths, taking the overall tally to 301,712 and 6,845, respectively.