Suo Moto by the Supreme Court in the Covid Case

Monday, 31st May, 2021 the Supreme Court questioned the center regarding the dual pricing and procurement policies in the Covid Vaccine, the centers diversion from the National Immunisation Program and its mandate on of registrations on the COWIN app.

The three judge Bench consisted of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat. Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, advanced that there had been some developments regarding the vaccination front and in his affidavit, he would elaborate and mention the facts for the same.

Justices D. Y. Chandrachud mentioned that his concern was regarding the basis of the central governments plan where they have stated that people above the age of 45 would receive vaccinations free of charge whereas population below 45 the state will have their arrangements with the manufactures and the remaining 50% procurement would be done by private hospitals. The centre has all by itself derived at the conclusion that the population which has crossed the age of 45 has a higher mortality rate than the ones below 45 however they have not considered the fact that the second wave has affected the people below 45 equally. The judge’squestion was why had the centre not made proper arrangements for people below the age of 45 and relied upon the state for the same. He asked for a justification for the same. To this the SG expressed that since 1st May provisions for below 45 people are also being done by the centre. For the people ranging between 18-45 50% of the vaccination would be on pro rata basis where as the other half would be given to private sectors. He also added that the question of bargaining with the manufactures is also irradicated as the prices will be fixed by the central government.

Justice Roa in view of one theory stated that the central government should make policies in such a way that vulnerable sections, like people will illnesses of health conditions and also falling in the range of 18-45 years receive the vaccination first.  To this justice Chandrachud added that vaccination for this range given through private hospitals is received by urban areas and some small towns but the rural areas have been neglected.

There were questions raised by the judges regarding the pricing of the vaccines by stating that the centre and the state have to fix a price for the vaccine for all age groups and there can be no difference in the pricing for people above or below 45.  The judges stated that they cannot ask the government to change the policy all together but they insisted that the new policy should meet tests of reasonableness.

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