Written by: Akash Deep (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The Supreme Court heard the suo moto case regarding the issues coming from COVID-19 crisis in the country. The case was heard by a three-judge bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud along with Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice S. Ravindra Bhatt. In the suo moto case on COVID-19 crisis, the Supreme Court questioned the centre on imposing a lockdown, availability of medicines, distribution of sufficient oxygen cylinders and vaccine prices.
SUPREME COURT CRITICIZED THE C0VID-19 VACCINE PRICING POLICY
The bench questioned the central government’ vaccine pricing and procurement policy by stating that the central government should adopt the policy of National Immunization Policy. Justice Bhat pointed out that manufacturers were charging Rs. 150 from the centre while vaccines to the states were priced at Rs. 300. “AstraZeneca is providing vaccines at far lower price to the US citizens then why should we pay this much?” Justice Bhat asked. The bench asked why the centre had not procured 100% of the vaccines and distributed equally across the country.
SUPREME COURT HAS ISSUED WARNING AGAINST ANY CLAMPDOWN
State governments have issued certain statements such as unverified claims on shortage of oxygen cylinders, COVID-19 drugs, if posted on social media then that person will have the risk of losing their property as the National Security Act (NSA) will be invoked against them. In response to this, the Court has warned the state governments and police against clampdown on spreading information about serious health crisis on social media regarding COVID-19. The bench was of the view that any move by the state to punish those who take help of social media for oxygen cylinders, beds and hospitals would attract contempt of court.“We don’t want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances are considered for action. Let a strong message go to all the states and DGPs of states. Clampdown of information is contrary to basic precepts,” Justice Chandrachud said.
SUPREME COURT POSED CERTAIN QUESTIONS TO CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN REGARD TO COVID-19 CRISIS
1. Why has the COVID-19 vaccine been priced differently?
2. Will one state get priority access over others in getting a vaccine?
3. How will the central government enable vaccine registrations for illiterates or those who don’t have access to the internet?
4. What kind of restrictions centre has taken to curb the spread of COVID-19?
5. What measures have been taken to ensure supply of tankers and cylinders are within the reach?
6. What has been done for the shortage of medical staff?
7. What is the rationale behind allocation of oxygen to critical states?
8. How is the centre regulating the problems of high rate being charged to treat patients?
The Supreme Court in suo moto writ petition (civil) No.3 of 2021 in Re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services during Pandemic passed an order directing the central government;
1. That the centre and states to prepare buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes to avoid unforeseen circumstances. The stocks shall be prepared within four days.
2. That no patient shall be denied of hospitalization and the central government should make a national policy on admission in hospitals within two weeks.
3. That the central and state governments shall notify it to all the concerned authorities that any clampdown on information caused would attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this court.
4. The centre shall ensure that the shortage of oxygen in Delhi shall be rectified within 2 days from the date of hearing, i.e., on or before the midnight of 3 May 2021.