It is Easy to Blame: SC Refuses to entertain Plea Seeking CBI probe on Oxygen Crisis
New Delhi: Observing that the plea begins with an assumption which itself can be questioned, the Supreme Court bench refused to entertain a plea that had sought a CBI probe and a high-level inquiry by a commission into the alleged non-supply and non-availability of medical oxygen for COVID-19 patients during the second wave of the pandemic from March to May this year.
Dismissing the plea the bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna noted that a National Task Force has already been set up by the Apex Court and it consists of doctors from various institutes, adds Live Law.
Further referring to the prayer seeking CBI probe, the bench noted that recourse to jurisdiction under article 32 needs to be preceded by invocation of remedies available under CrPC. However, noting that in the present case, the petitioner has sought to invoke article 32 directly, the bench observed, "Allegation with regard to criminal wrong ways cannot be assumed nor can be levelled lightly without adequate material."
"Sometimes P in the PIL goes beyond public into other interests. We don't want our court to be an instrument to pursue other P's in a public interest litigation," Justice Chandrachud was quoted saying as he dismissed the plea.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the plea before the Supreme Court had alleged that the non-availability of medical oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic had resulted in the death of several patients in various parts of the country.
Further, the Delhi-based petitioner had also urged the apex court to direct a court-monitored inquiry by the CBI or any other investigating agency in the matter relating to non-availability of medical oxygen in the months of March to May this year.
It had sought a high-level inquiry by a commission headed by a retired judge of the apex court or retired chief justice of any high court in the matter.
The plea had arrayed the Centre and others, including the National Disaster Management Authority and health departments of several states, as respondents.
"This court through its various judgements has logically extended the interpretation of the right to life to include the right to health. Therefore, it is the fundamental duty of the State to care for the health of the public at large," the plea filed through advocate Rajeev Kumar Dubey had stated.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, Advocate Medhanshu Tripathi representing the petitioner submitted that the petitioner himself had suffered due to inadequate oxygen and pointed out that as far as the common citizens of India are concerned lakhs of people died within March-May this year.
However, disagreeing with the counsel's submissions, the bench opined that without being in the hot seat it becomes easy to criticize the government and even the court.
"Even the most developed nations of world with a developed infrastructure in terms of health, are struggling to deal with pandemic. It is very to criticise the Government and the Court without being in hot seat. At this point of time, do we do a legal post mortem or do we do something positive which we have done in setting up pf a task force," noted the bench.
When the counsel for the petitioner argued that the Parliamentary Committee had also indicated about the possibility of crisis, and even after those suggestions had failed, Commission of inquiry will be helpful to determine who was at fault.
"Lets do something positive for society like we did in covid vaccination case, to make sure we are equipped for cases of future contingencies. Court intervened through suo moto jurisdiction. At this point of time when country is dealing with a crisis we must be wary of demoralizing authorities which are combating very serious problem on hands as opposed to doing something positive to improve the situation," the bench noted at this outset.
"It is easy to blame. People who are in position today, in government hospitals. That's why Patients die and doctors are beaten up, as if to say that doctor on duty is responsible. Even assuming he or she is, answer is not assault. Sometimes a death occurs with all possible facilities available," further added the bench.
Further considering the request by the petitioner to set up commission of inquiry into the matter, the bench observed that the plea has been filed on the basis of an assumption. Besides, the bench also pointed out that a National Task Force has already been set up by the top court and it consists of doctors from various institutes.
Noting that one of the issue that the Task Force is considering is the availability and distribution of oxygen, the bench opined that it would be inappropriate and improper to constitute a parallel proceeding by forming a commission of enquiry.
Referring to the matter of CBI probe, the bench noted that any recourse sought under Article 32 should be preceded by invocation of remedies available under CrPC. Noting that the petitioner had sought recourse under Article 32 first, rather than pursuing other remedies, the bench noted,
"You want us to set us an inquiry commission for issues pertaining to distribution of oxygen, or hand it over to CBI. CBI is always matter of last recourse. Have you filed an FIR? Have you invoked provisions of Section 154, before asking for enquiry under CBI?"
"Everyone wants to run here! You must invoke your remedies under the CrPC. Then come to this court if you find yourself up against the wall. Article 32 can be a jurisdiction of first resort for invoking a CBI inquiry" Justice Chandrachud remarked.
Dismissing the plea, Justice Chandrachud was quoted saying by Live Law, "Sometimes P in the PIL goes beyond public into other interests. We don't want our court to be an instrument to pursue other P's in a public interest litigation."