The Supreme Court has set up a 12-member national task force to facilitate a public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic based on scientific and specialised domain knowledge.
The task force’s terms of reference include addressing issues relating to oxygen supply to different states, suggesting measures to ensure availability of essential medicines, and optimizing the use of available manpower, according to an order passed by a bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah.
The committee has been asked to commence work immediately and will have a tenure of six months. The cabinet secretary will be the convenor.
Apart from the cabinet secretary, the task force members include top medical professionals and scientists such as Dr. Devender Singh Rana, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Dr. Naresh Trehan, Dr. Gagandeep Kang and Dr. Bhabatosh Biswas.
The top court bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud has asked the central government, state governments and other agencies to provide complete and real-time data for facilitating the work of the task force.
India has reported over 4 lakh new infections for three days in a row, taking the taking the active caseload to over 37 lakh, according to the health ministry’s 8 a.m. update. Daily reported fatalities crossed 4,000 for the first time on Saturday, taking the number of people who succumbed to Covid-19 to 2.38 lakh. To be clear, data on Covid cases and related deaths may be severely deficient as several states have inadequate testing, chronic underreporting and have been reportedly also concealing such data by attributing deaths to other causes.
Till the task force submits its recommendations, the apex court has directed the central government to continue with the present method of providing oxygen in line with the court orders.
The Supreme Court has also allowed the task force to induct officials from the central government ministries including the Ministry of Human Affairs, Road and Transport, the Niti Aayog, and National Informatics Centre, among others.
The government has also been directed to provide two nodal officers to assist in the work of the task force. The top court will take up the case next on May 17.