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Cannot be a mute spectator during crisis: SC on Covid-19 suo motu matter

SC has also asked the Centre to clarify the basis for vaccine pricing and consider invoking the Patent Act to regulate it

Sabrangindia 27 Apr 2021

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Ravindra Bhat and Nageswara Rao considered the suo motu matter pertaining to the Covid-19 second wave in the country today on April 27.

According to media reports, the Supreme Court has clarified that it has “no intention” to take up matters from the High Courts who are seized with similar cases. Livelaw reported that the Bench said, “The object of these proceedings is not to supplant the High Courts or to take over from High Courts what they are doing. High Courts are in a better position to monitor what is going on within their territorial boundaries…During national crisis, the Supreme Court cannot be a mute spectator. The role of the Supreme Court is complimentary in nature. The issues which travail state boundaries is what this court will look into and thus Article 32 jurisdiction has been assumed.”

The Bench reiterated that it sees no reason or justification to interdict the various state courts as they are best situated to make an assessment of ground realities in their own respective states and find solutions to problems faced by citizens. It also urged everyone to take the Supreme Court’s intervention as the correct thing to do as it is a national issue and might require coordination between states.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was present during the hearing representing the Union government reportedly said that the country should be proud of the fact that Prime Minister Modi is examining the issues at hand and all political parties are coordinating and working across party lines.

Bar & Bench quoted him stating, “We should all be proud that this issue is being looked into by the Prime Minister and all political parties are coordinating across party lines. Jurisdiction of the High Court or Supreme Court is not in question. We are only laying down steps taken on war footing.”  

Justice Bhat also asked the Centre if the para-military and defence forces can be pressed into service to tackle the pandemic. “We need to know about use in central resources of para military forces who have paramedics and army facilities and army doctors and railways, these are common facilities which can be made available for quarantine, vaccination or beds”, he said, according to B&B.

On April 22, the top court had directed the Central government to come up with a ‘national plan’ for dealing with the essential services and supplies during the pandemic.  

Vaccine pricing

According to B&B, the three judge Bench noted that different vaccine manufactures were quoting different prices for their vaccines at a time when the country is under a deadly crisis. It, therefore, orally urged the Central government to examine the necessity of invoking provisions under the Patent Act to regulate the prices if necessary.

The court also ordered the Centre to clarify the grounds on which pricing has been fixed while also asking the government for details on modalities put in place to manage vaccine shortage when vaccination is opened to up to all above 18 years of age from May 1 onwards.

Accordingly, based on a B&B report, the court issued the following directions:

1. The Central government should apprise the Court on the total availability of oxygen. The government should show the projected demand of oxygen now and in the future and the steps taken to ensure augmentation of the same;

2. Steps that are taken to ensure supply of drugs such as Remdesivir and others;

3. Whether Covishield and Covaxin is being made available, as on the date of vaccination. The Union shall also clarify the projected requirements of vaccine due to enhancement of coverage;

4. Modality to be put in place to ensure that shortage and deficit would be looked into. Centre is to also clarify the basis and rationale for pricing of vaccine;

5. Comprehensive panel of doctors should be available for citizens to spread awareness about the different steps to be taken during the pandemic.

Since Senior Counsel Harish Salve quit as the Amicus Curiae in this matter, the court has now appointed Senior Advocates Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora as the Amicus Curiae, according to media reports. During the hearing earlier, Harish Salve had said, “It is the most sensitive case the court will look into. I don’t want the case to be heard under a shadow that I was appointed because of my school friendship with the CJI. I did not know our bar was divided between advocates who appear for industries and against it. I don’t want aspersions to be cast.”

The matter will be taken up in the next two days.

Related:

SC takes suo motu cognisance of Covid-19 crisis, to withdraw cases from all HCs
Harish Salve recuses as Amicus Curiae in SC’s suo motu Covid-19 crisis matter
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Delhi: Privilege and priorities of the Covid-19 hit national capital

Cannot be a mute spectator during crisis: SC on Covid-19 suo motu matter

SC has also asked the Centre to clarify the basis for vaccine pricing and consider invoking the Patent Act to regulate it

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Ravindra Bhat and Nageswara Rao considered the suo motu matter pertaining to the Covid-19 second wave in the country today on April 27.

According to media reports, the Supreme Court has clarified that it has “no intention” to take up matters from the High Courts who are seized with similar cases. Livelaw reported that the Bench said, “The object of these proceedings is not to supplant the High Courts or to take over from High Courts what they are doing. High Courts are in a better position to monitor what is going on within their territorial boundaries…During national crisis, the Supreme Court cannot be a mute spectator. The role of the Supreme Court is complimentary in nature. The issues which travail state boundaries is what this court will look into and thus Article 32 jurisdiction has been assumed.”

The Bench reiterated that it sees no reason or justification to interdict the various state courts as they are best situated to make an assessment of ground realities in their own respective states and find solutions to problems faced by citizens. It also urged everyone to take the Supreme Court’s intervention as the correct thing to do as it is a national issue and might require coordination between states.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was present during the hearing representing the Union government reportedly said that the country should be proud of the fact that Prime Minister Modi is examining the issues at hand and all political parties are coordinating and working across party lines.

Bar & Bench quoted him stating, “We should all be proud that this issue is being looked into by the Prime Minister and all political parties are coordinating across party lines. Jurisdiction of the High Court or Supreme Court is not in question. We are only laying down steps taken on war footing.”  

Justice Bhat also asked the Centre if the para-military and defence forces can be pressed into service to tackle the pandemic. “We need to know about use in central resources of para military forces who have paramedics and army facilities and army doctors and railways, these are common facilities which can be made available for quarantine, vaccination or beds”, he said, according to B&B.

On April 22, the top court had directed the Central government to come up with a ‘national plan’ for dealing with the essential services and supplies during the pandemic.  

Vaccine pricing

According to B&B, the three judge Bench noted that different vaccine manufactures were quoting different prices for their vaccines at a time when the country is under a deadly crisis. It, therefore, orally urged the Central government to examine the necessity of invoking provisions under the Patent Act to regulate the prices if necessary.

The court also ordered the Centre to clarify the grounds on which pricing has been fixed while also asking the government for details on modalities put in place to manage vaccine shortage when vaccination is opened to up to all above 18 years of age from May 1 onwards.

Accordingly, based on a B&B report, the court issued the following directions:

1. The Central government should apprise the Court on the total availability of oxygen. The government should show the projected demand of oxygen now and in the future and the steps taken to ensure augmentation of the same;

2. Steps that are taken to ensure supply of drugs such as Remdesivir and others;

3. Whether Covishield and Covaxin is being made available, as on the date of vaccination. The Union shall also clarify the projected requirements of vaccine due to enhancement of coverage;

4. Modality to be put in place to ensure that shortage and deficit would be looked into. Centre is to also clarify the basis and rationale for pricing of vaccine;

5. Comprehensive panel of doctors should be available for citizens to spread awareness about the different steps to be taken during the pandemic.

Since Senior Counsel Harish Salve quit as the Amicus Curiae in this matter, the court has now appointed Senior Advocates Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora as the Amicus Curiae, according to media reports. During the hearing earlier, Harish Salve had said, “It is the most sensitive case the court will look into. I don’t want the case to be heard under a shadow that I was appointed because of my school friendship with the CJI. I did not know our bar was divided between advocates who appear for industries and against it. I don’t want aspersions to be cast.”

The matter will be taken up in the next two days.

Related:

SC takes suo motu cognisance of Covid-19 crisis, to withdraw cases from all HCs
Harish Salve recuses as Amicus Curiae in SC’s suo motu Covid-19 crisis matter
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Delhi: Privilege and priorities of the Covid-19 hit national capital

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