Terming the massive resurgence of COVID-19 cases a "national crisis", the Supreme Court Tuesday said it cannot remain a mute spectator and made clear that its suo motu proceeding on devising national policy for COVID-19 management is not meant to supplant high court cases.
A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said high courts are in a better position to monitor the pandemic situation within their territorial boundaries.
There is a need for top court's intervention on certain national issues as there might be matters related to coordination between states, it said.
"We are playing complementary role, if High Courts have any difficulty in dealing with issues due to territorial limitations, we will help," said the bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.
Last Thursday, the bench took note of the pandemic situation due to sudden surge in COVID-19 cases as also mortality and said it expected the Centre to come out with a "national plan" to deal with distribution of essential services and supplies, including oxygen and drugs.
Observing that oxygen to patients infected with the virus is said to be an "essential part" of treatment, the top court had said it seemed that a certain amount of "panic" has been generated due to which people have approached several high courts seeking relief.
Meanwhile,the Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that medical oxygen in any country cannot be unlimited and with the active and constant supervision of the Prime Minister it is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing to provide relief to COVID-19 patients.
The government said oxygen supplies available at any given time in the country are to be distributed to all the states, especially those which are critically burdened with high number of active COVID cases, in a balanced manner.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases itself bring with it certain inbuilt limitations in terms of available resources which need to be professionally augmented and utilised.
Further, the centre said to deal with shortage of medical oxygen, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is in the process of commissioning 162 PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption technology to generate oxygen at local level) plants across the country on a war footing.