What is the system doing? : SC on COVID-19

The honourable Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the center to clarify the basis and logic based on which COVID-19 vaccines are being priced in the country.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat took note that different vaccine manufacturers were quoting different prices for their vaccines at a time when the country is facing a national health crisis. Justice Bhat remarked, “Regarding pricing on vaccination are quoting different prices. There are powers under Patents act. This is a pandemic and a national crisis”. The Court, therefore orally urged the Central Government to look into the requirements of invoking provisions under the Patent Act to regulate the prices of COVID vaccines if necessary.

 In the order is issued, the Court also directed the Centre to clarify the basis on which pricing has been done; and also asked the Government for details on modalities put in place to meet vaccine shortage when vaccination is opened up to all above 18 years of age. The Bench also reiterated that the Supreme Court will not stop the High Courts from using their powers to look into COVID related issues arising in their respective jurisdictions. Nevertheless, it was emphasized that the apex court of the country cannot remain a mute spectator at the time of a national crisis.

 Justice Chandrachud said, “High Courts are in a better position to look into this. Supreme Court has to intervene too because there may be national or systemic issues. At time of national crisis, Supreme Court cannot be a mute spectator.” Through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the Central Government also assured that it will not oppose any High Court on the aspect of jurisdiction. Solicitor General Mehta added, “We should all be proud that this issue is being looked into by the Prime Minister and all the political parties are coordinating across party lines. Jurisdiction of the High or Supreme Courts is not in question. We are only laying down steps taken on war footing.”

 Justice Ravindra Bhat, addressing the Centre said, “We need to know about the use of resources of the para-military forces which have para-medics and army facilities and army doctors and Railways, these are common facilities which can be made available for quarantine, vaccination or beds”. The Bench ordered the Centre to apprise the Court on the total availability of oxygen, along with the projected demand of oxygen now and in the future, steps taken to ensure an increase in the same, the monitoring mechanism to ensure supply to affected states, share from the Central pool for states, methodology for same, etc.

 The Centre was also asked to show the steps being taken to ensure the supply of drugs like Remdesivir and others. The Union was then directed to clarify the projected requirements of vaccines due to the enhancement of coverage from May 1 onwards. The Centre was ordered to clarify the rationale and basis for the pricing of vaccines; present the modality to be followed to ensure that shortage and deficit would be looked into. The Court directed that a comprehensive panel of doctors should be made available for citizens to learn about the steps required to be taken during the pandemic. The Centre will also be required to let the Court know about the steps taken to form an identified panel of specialists which will be replicated at all state levels.

 Senior Advocates Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora were then appointed as the Amicus Curiae in the matter as Senior Counsel Harish Salve had recused from the case last week. The matter will be further heard on 29th April; and will be heard on a day-to-day basis thereafter.

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday stated regarding the COVID-19 care in the state, “Not saying Government is doing nothing, but it is not satisfactory”. Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav D Karia heard the suo moto case. The Court also emphasized the fact that a lockdown is not a solution and this is not New Zealand or Germany. Justice Karia asked the government, “There is a projection for 0.5 million patients. What are you planning? How are you preparing? In Rajkot, hospitals are asking patients to get oxygen and then get admitted. What is the system doing”?

 CJ Nath reiterated they were not happy with the current situation. He strongly highlighted the adverse effects arising due to fake news and asked the government to take to task the news channel which is giving fake news, and asked them to take action against these media houses. He continued, “One suggestion has come from my brother Judge. Registration of Births and deaths has to be made within 30 days. If a 30-day period expires, then there is a long period where a common man is harassed. Can this period be extended to include lockdown”?

 The hearing is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 4.

 Also, the Bombay High Court Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni ordered that if they find any private company procuring COVID-19 drugs and giving them to individuals directly, then the Court will pass an order of injunction against them. The Court revealed it had come across an incident in Maharashtra where a politician was found distributing 10,000 vials of Remdesivir to citizens directly.

 The Delhi High Court lambasted the Delhi Government and the Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli directed the government to file an affidavit detailing the number of deaths that have taken place in city hospitals due to oxygen shortage. The Delhi Government is supposed to submit the affidavit within 4 days. During the hearing, Batra Hospital informed the Court that it did not have an oxygen supply for some time on 26th April, due to which 21 lives were lost. To which the Court said that the bereaved need to be compensated, which the responsibility of the state.

 The Bench told the AAP Government, “Put your house in order”. The Court also directed the Delhi Government to divert the stock from an oxygen re-filler, who appeared to be indulged in black-marketing, to cater to the needs of the immediate SOS calls made by the hospitals present before the Bench. The AAP Government was told by the Court that if lives were lost, they would haul up their officers!

Sonakshi Datta

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

#Supreme Court, #Delhi High Court, #Gujarat High Court, #Bombay High Court, #COVID-19, #COVID-19 Crisis




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