Today News Online Service
New Delhi, May 10
The Supreme Court on Monday deferred to May 13 the hearing on COVID-19 crisis management due to technical glitch even as the Centre turned down the court’s suggestion for uniform vaccine pricing, saying states have already announced free vaccination for all.
“Server is down today. We will go through the affidavits and keep the matter on Thursday,” said a Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice LN Rao and Justice SR Bhat s the proceedings got hit by technical glitches after the matter was taken up for hearing.
Cautioning the court against judicial interference in the matter, in a late night affidavit the Centre asked it to trust the wisdom of the executive which needed the discretion to formulate policy in the larger interest.
“In view of the unprecedented and peculiar circumstances under which vaccination drive is devised as an executive policy, the wisdom of the executive should be trusted,” the Centre said.
“Any overzealous, though well-meaning judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences, in absence of any expert advice or administrative experience, leaving the doctors, scientists, experts and executive very little room to find innovative solutions on the go,” the affidavit submitted.
The Centre also rejected the court’s suggestion to exercise its powers under the Patents Act—such as compulsory licensing or government authorization—over COVID19 vaccines and medicines, saying it would be counter-productive at this stage.
The top court had earlier asked the Centre to reconsider its COVID19 vaccine pricing policy as it would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health. Describing vaccinations being provided to citizens as a “valuable public good”, it had said the current policy would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health—an integral element of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
However, defending its vaccination policy, the Centre said the price factor will not have any impact on the ultimate beneficiary namely, the eligible person getting the vaccine since all state governments have already declared their policy decision that each state will be administering the vaccine to its residents, free of cost.
The policy was framed keeping in mind limited availability of vaccines, the vulnerability of age groups, and the fact that vaccinating the entire country was not possible in one go due to the suddenness of the pandemic, as the prime considerations, it submitted.
The pricing of vaccine was not only reasonable but also uniform throughout India. “Due to consultations and “persuasion” by the Centre, both Bharat Biotech and SII have declared their respective prices which are uniform for all State Governments, it said, adding, the new ‘Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy would further ramp up the pace of COVID-19 vaccination.”
Many other companies were in the late stages of clinical trials and expected to receive 50 necessary approval that would further increase the availability of vaccines, it added.
“Sometimes, steps that are taken for immediate needs, to tide over an imminent crisis, may turn out to be imprudent in a long run. However, they need to be appreciated, understood and acknowledged, keeping in mind the complete strategy and policy and holistic picture of immediate-, medium- and long-term needs, while also retaining the capacity to remain dynamic to deal with an ever-mutating virus, whose exact graph cannot be predicted with accuracy and continuous up-gradation of knowledge pool with further experience and research,” the affidavit read.