The top court has also directed the Centre to provide data on all procurement orders for the three vaccines Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V vaccines
The Supreme Court has asked all states and Union Territories to file affidavits confirming or denying that they will be providing COVID-19 vaccinations free of cost as per an affidavit submitted by the Central Government.
The top court has also told the Centre to provide data on a slew of issues related to the inoculation process as well as purchase history of vaccines, including total vaccines ordered so far, date of such orders, and the future supply expected along with the expected date of delivery.
While the court had passed the order on Monday (31 May) while hearing a suo motu case to deal with issues relating to COVID-19 management in the country, it was published on the Supreme Court website on Wednesday.
On 9 May, the Centre had said in an affidavit that all states and Union Territories will provide free vaccinations. Responding to this, a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said, “It is important that individual state/UT governments confirm/deny this position before the court. Further, if they have decided to vaccinate their population for free, then, as a matter of principle, it is important that this policy is annexed to their affidavit so that the population within their territories can be assured of their right…”
The court has also said that the policy of paid vaccination for the 18-44 age group is ‘prima facie arbitrary and irrational’.
The top court pointed to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and asked the Centre to review its vaccination policy.
Provide purchase history of vaccines, court tells Centre
The court has also asked the Central government to furnish complete data on the government’s purchase history of all the COVID-19 vaccines till date including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V, as noted by Bar & Bench.
The bench has asked the Centre to state the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Central government for all three vaccines, the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and the projected date of supply.
The Union government has also been asked to provide data on the percentage of population that has been vaccinated with one dose and both doses, as against eligible persons in the first three phases of the vaccination drive.
Further, the Supreme Court has told the Centre to give an outline for how and when it seeks to vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2 and 3.
During the hearing on Monday, the court had questioned the differential pricing of vaccines for the Centre and states.
“The Centre says it gets a low price since it buys in bulk. If this is the rationale, then why do states have to pay a higher price? There needs to be one price for vaccines across the nation. The pandemic has evolved in the last two months,” Justice Chandrachud had orally observed.
‘Courts can’t be silent spectators’
The bench hearing the case said that it is trite to state that separation of powers is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and policy-making continues to be in the sole domain of the executive.
“Our Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies. Judicial review and soliciting constitutional justification for policies formulated by the executive is an essential function, which the courts are entrusted to perform”, the judges said.
The court said, “The judiciary does not possess the authority or competence to assume the role of the executive, which is democratically accountable for its actions and has access to the resources which are instrumental to policy formulation. However, this separation of powers does not result in courts lacking jurisdiction in conducting a judicial review of these policies.”
It said that across the globe, the executive has been given a wider margin in enacting measures which ordinarily may have violated the liberty of individuals, but are now incumbent to curb the pandemic.
With inputs from PTI
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