None should die awaiting Customs clearance for O2 concentrators: HC
New Delhi: Observing that "people should not lose lives" as a result of imported oxygen concentrators pending Customs clearance, the Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Centre to inform it of the status of all such concentrators that are awaiting clearance.
Appearing before a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal told the court, "Customs be put on war footing (regarding the release of oxygen concentrators). Max Hospital has 3,000 concentrators lying in the customs".
He told the court that these concentrators should be released to hospitals, individuals and distributors with an undertaking that they should not be sold in the black market.
On this, the bench asked Centre as to what is the backlog and how many such concentrators are pending clearance at customs, to which advocate Amit Mahajan responded that it is a dynamic number and that there is an order saying that that the process has to be completed within three hours.
"People should not lose their lives for this. That there are resources but they are pending clearance...the question we are asking is if backlog of concentrators is lying. You are taking us round in circles" the bench remarked.
The bench further asked Mahajan about the status of these concentrators as of 12 pm on Monday. On this, Mahajan informed the court that as of April 30, as many as 40,000 concentrators had been cleared.
However, after Mahajan could not provide a complete collation of how many concentrators are awaiting clearance, the bench asked it to come back with the information today (Tuesday).
However, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs issued a statement after the hearing to address Max's allegation of 3,000 concentrators awaiting Customs clearance. The CBIC, in a press note, said no such consignment of concentrators was awaiting Customs clearance. It said that it had checked with its field formations and found no such consignment with the Customs. However, it said that some information regarding this was available on social media and added that it would take action on any credible information as to the whereabouts of such a held-up consignment if any.
Significantly, on Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam, seeking a complete exemption of IGST on the import of oxygen concentrators, especially in light of the fact that at least a third of Delhi's home isolation patients were currently struggling to get oxygen.
Hours later, the Centre notified a list of good exempted from IGST, including oxygen concentrators.