The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that economic interests can not override human lives and suggested some reduction in steel and petroleum production to divert oxygen to Covid-19 patients.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said if the lockdown continues then everything would come to a halt and therefore, what would be the need for steel, petrol and diesel during such a situation.

The court asked the Centre why it was waiting till 22 April to ban industrial use of oxygen. “Shortage is now. You have to do it (ban) now. Look into taking some oxygen from steel and petroleum industries. They have big pockets and big lobbies, but tell them if they have to cut production, then they can cut production. Lives have to be saved,” the bench said.

The court cited the example of a central government counsel whose father was admitted in hospital and was on oxygen support, but due its scarcity, oxygen was being provided at a reduced pressure to him to conserve it.

“Can you ask him to hold on till 22 April,” the court asked. It said if nothing was done, then “we are heading for a bigger disaster”. “We might end up losing nearly a crore of people. Are we willing to accept that,” the bench said.

The observations by the bench came after perusing the Centre’s affidavit which said there was presently no gap in oxygen supply to Delhi and that industrial use of oxygen was banned with effect from 22 April.