Earlier this month, the Supreme Court cleared that it cannot remain a mute spectator during a time when the country is facing its worst battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. It further said that it will not interfere in the work done by various High Courts across the country. The statement was made by a Special Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat.
The Bench grilled the central and state and authorities on the various aspects of Covid management for the whole day in a suo motu hearing. “During a national crisis, the SC cannot be a mute spectator. The role of the Supreme Court is complementary. The court will examine issues which travel beyond the boundaries of States and have national repercussions,” the Bench said, brushing aside the fears that the top court will jeopardise the HCs’ ongoing work.
More than 11 High Courts in various states are passing Covid related judgments daily. The Bench observed that the High Courts are best suited to make an assessment of ground realities in each state and find feasible solutions for problems faced by citizens and that there is no need to interfere in their work. The Bench further questioned the Centre about the vaccination policy and its different manufacturers pricing it differently.
Justice Bhat enquired about why the Centre was not coming up with uniform prices and further asked how vaccines sold in private hospitals turn out to be more expensive. “What is the rationale or basis for different manufacturers coming out with different prices? What is the Centre doing about it? Control the prices and bring them under a statutory regime under the Drugs Control Act or the Patents Act,” the Bench said addressing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing the Centre.
Grilling the law officer, Justice Bhat said, “This is a pandemic and if this is not the time to issue such powers to control prices, then when is it?” The apex court had further directed the Centre to file an affidavit by April 30. The Bench appointed senior advocates Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora as amici curiae in the case after senior advocate Harish Salve withdrew from this role.
India’s total tally of Covid-19 cases climbed to over 2 crores with a record 4,14,188 new coronavirus infections reported in a day. While the active cases crossed the 36-lakh mark, it also reported 4187 fatalities in a span of 24 hours.