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The Supreme Court on Friday reproached the central government for failing to supply 700 tonnes of medical-grade oxygen a day to Delhi, warning it of “coercive steps" if there is any deficit in the future.

The remarks came after the capital received 527 tonnes of oxygen on Thursday, lower than the 730 tonnes it received the day before. The city is estimated to require at least 700 tonnes to sustain the critical care patient load, and consistently lower supplies have caused several hospitals to reduce the number of beds, officials have said.

“We have been very clear that you have to give 700 tonnes to Delhi every day. We said it in our earlier order and also clarified this yesterday (Thursday). Don’t drive us to a situation where we have to take firm and coercive steps," the bench of justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre. The strictures came after senior counsel Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, made an urgent mention before the court about the shortage of oxygen supply between Thursday and Friday despite the court’s categorical directive that the city must get 700 tonnes every day till the order is either reviewed or modified. Mehra said Delhi received only 527 tonnes of oxygen by Thursday midnight.

The bench reminded the solicitor general that it was repeated several times by the court during the proceedings on Thursday that the Centre will have to keep supplying 700 tonnes to Delhi unless the order is modified.

“Mr Solicitor, please note that when we say 700 tonnes has to be supplied to Delhi, it does not mean it is only for one day. Tell your officers that it is not acceptable. We clarified yesterday also that till the further orders, you have to supply 700 tonnes. We made it very clear. Whenever the committee gives its report on allocation, we will see. But you cannot give it only one day to assuage us and say ‘chalo de diya ek din’ (we have given it one day)," it told the law officer.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday that Delhi can add 9,000 to 9,500 beds for covid-19 patients if the Union government continues to send 700 tonnes of medical oxygen. In addition to the Supreme Court and the government, the Delhi high court has also asked the Union government to ensure the city gets adequate amount of medical oxygen.

The bench also expressed displeasure at the Centre’s note in the court on Thursday wherein the supply of oxygen to Delhi was conditioned on availability of containers and tankers.

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