It is sad to see that Twitter is full of ridicule for the Supreme Court of India following its intervention in the Oxygen supply issues.
The formation of a National Task force to streamline Oxygen supply by the Supreme Court, however good intentioned it may be, is an over reach by Supreme Court into the executive functions of the Government. This is a constitutional misadventure which should have been avoided.
The Court could have urged the Government to act and could have engaged in an off-judgement conversation to hasten action.
If the shortage of oxygen is due to black marketing and hoarding, the culprits are to be identified and punished. If it is due to the inefficiency of the Government machinery, the reasons why Government Jobs have become the preserve of the inefficient and the root cause such as “Reservation” should be explored.
The task of allocating a life saving commodity equitably to thousands of locations in India is a logistics issue. It cannot be solved by diverting oxygen from a less privileged state to Delhi or more privileged states or to protect the Judges in a specially created five star hospital.
The Supreme Court could have asked for advice from some companies in logistics business or IIMs to work out a more efficient method of managing the Oxygen supply. IT Companies could have helped in the rolling out of the software if required.
Instead Supreme Court has created a committee of a different kind of professionals which will only result in one more paper and no action. All the Committee members are medical experts and have no direct experience or knowledge on Oxygen production, supply in the world and logistics of how to distribute it across the nation without any patient feeling that his oxygen was not snatched away by another patient. They cannot say Delhi Judges need more oxygen than Chamarajanagar villagers or why West Bengal needs more Oxygen than Uttar Pradesh.
Dr Devi Shetty has given valuable suggestions on how to control the next shortage of medical professionals and this committee is more suited for that decision than on streamlining of Oxygen supply. The judgement indicates that the Court does not have expertise in identifying the root cause for the problem nor a possible solution and have just reflected the combined views of a few gentlemen with some life experience based on what the lawyers put up before them in terms of evidence and arguments.
Creation of such task forces can only frustrate the executive and make them less accountable. Now all initiatives of the executives would stop and the IAS officers will look upto the directions from the committee. This may create more harmful in the days to come.
Most of the citizens today are questioning the Supreme Court why they are not addressing the issue of pending cases. Naavi.org has repeatedly been asking the rationale for the “Bollywood Judgement” which allowed Bitcoin trading in India against the wishes of RBI which is the designated regulator. The Judges of the Court has still not come out with a declaration of their Bitcoin/Crypto asset holding to clear themselves of the suspicion of being irrationally biased.
The Supreme Court did not intervene when Net4India customers were suffering and feeling digitally choked because of the mis-handling by NCLT.
The Supreme Court has not been able to stop the political violence in West Bengal leading to hundreds of BJP workers being killed by their political opponents. They have turned a blind eye to the DMK workers in Tamil Nadu going violent against their political opponents. The Court did not act when farmer’s agitations were required to be curbed.
These inefficiencies/biased functioning of the Supreme Court, not to talk of the charge of nepotism and corruption, has turned Supreme Court action in setting up the task force in the current Oxygen shortage context into an object of ridicule.
The selective action of Supreme Court to indulge in such executive activism is a dangerous tendency and should be curbed at the earliest.
I therefore urge the CJI to call for a full bench meeting of the Supreme Court and draw up some ethical standard operational procedure for the functioning of the Court when such public interest issues need to be adjudicated.
If possible, Supreme Court should consider setting up a Taskforce of respected citizens to help the judges draw up a plan of action to ensure that the Judiciary remains within its boundaries and let the Executive function on their own.