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SC may transfer COVID-19 cases from HCs, Salve made amicus curiae

Bench said it wanted a “national plan” on issues, including supply of oxygen, drugs

harish salve (File) Harish Salve

The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognizance of issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple High Courts, in particular the Delhi High Court and Bombay High Court, have been hearing and issuing directions on pleas related to the pandemic in recent days.

The Supreme Court noted that six High Courts dealing with issues of COVID-19 management was "creating confusion".

"We as a court wish to take suo motu cognizance of certain issues. We find that there are 6 High Courts: Delhi, Bombay Sikkim, MP, Calcutta and Allahabad. They are exercising jurisdiction in best interest. But it is creating confusion and diversion of resources," a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench. The bench also appointed senior lawyer Harish Salve amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices L.N. Rao and S.R. Bhat, said it wanted a “national plan” on issues, including supply of oxygen and essential drugs for treatment of patients infected with the virus.

The bench said it would issue notice to the Centre on four issues: Supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, vaccination and authority to declare lockdown. The bench emphasised the power to clear lockdown should rest with the state governments and "should not be judicial decision". "The Court said that it will examine whether to transfer these issues from High Courts to itself at a later stage," Bar and Bench reported.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was told the Centre could present its "national plan" to High Courts hearing matters related to COVID-19 management. The matter will be heard by the Supreme Court on Friday when the Centre's counsel and the amicus curiae are present.

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