Thursday, March 30, 2023

Supreme Court dismisses plea seeking CBI inquiry into oxygen shortage during Covid-19 second wave

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The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or any other independent agency with regards to shortage in supply of oxygen amid the second wave of Covid-19.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna observed that ‘P’ in PIL seems for other purposes and not just in the interest of public.

The petition further sought directions to set up an Inquiry Commission headed by a retired justice of Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of any of the High Courts.

“Even the most developed nations in the world are facing trouble, it is very easy to criticise,” commented Justice Chandrachud.

Advocate Medhamshu, appearing for the petitioner, who was aggrieved by the lack of oxygen availability during the second wave of Covid-19, stated that several High Courts issued directions to form committees regarding ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who suffered and some other reliefs as well. However, no enquiry has taken place as to why the system collapsed during the second wave.

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The bench, while drawing a silver lining between a commission and a committee, observed that to set up a commission is a legislative action and also to initiate an enquiry by the CBI, one needs to initiate proceedings under the Criminal Procedure Code first and not directly pursue the remedy under a Writ Petition. The aggrieved must lodge an FIR or initiate proceedings under Section 156 (3) of CrPC before seeking direction of the court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

The Court further observed that there is a National Task force, having a wide range of power and scope given to it for the purpose of Covid-related issues, formed after the Supreme Court initiated suo motu proceedings. Various litigants and citizens have forwarded sincere suggestions in this regard and made representation and ergo, noted the bench. “At this point of time when the country is dealing with a crisis, we don’t want to be a demoralising stage,” it added.

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