State’s obligation to ensure the Right to Life: Bombay High Court on Goa’s oxygen scarcity

The Bombay High Court ruled that it is the state’s duty to ensure people’s right to life, which would be breached if people die leading to a medical oxygen deficiency.

The bench of Justices M.S. Sonak and N.W. Sambre ruled that patients dying due to a lack of oxygen supply are an infringement of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life. As per the Supreme Court, the state must enforce provisions that safeguard this right to life and that the state must protect it, which would be utterly breached if citizens die from oxygen deprivation. It is not possible to escape this duty by pretending helplessness or stating logistical difficulties in acquiring and producing oxygen. The decision was made in response to a petition about COVID-19 poor management in Goa, where there were approximately 700 beds in Goa Medical College (GMC) to handle COVID-19 patients, but around 1,000 patients were admitted for medication, resulting in a 300-bed scarcity. 

The Court ordered that although the Goa Medical College has a maximum capacity of about 700 beds, and there are approximately 950 patients admitted there, such additional patients must be treated through loose cylinders. 

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