For the past one month, the Modi Government is facing a series of brickbats from courts for mishandling the Covid pandemic second wave. In another embarrassing situation to Centre, Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Government to place on record all relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking culminating in the COVID-19 vaccination policy, and the purchase history till the date of all jabs including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V. The apex court also asked the Centre to specify the steps being taken by it to ensure drug availability for Mucormycosis or black fungus. The Bench headed by Justice D Y Chadrachud also directed all states and union territories within two weeks their stand on providing free vaccination.
Considering the serious criticism from courts, this is the third big embarrassment to the Centre in handling the cases in Supreme Court on COVID-19 pandemic management. On May 9, taking out the powers of Health and Home Ministries, the apex court formed a 12-member National Task Force (NTF) comprising of noted doctors in the country to handle the supply and delivery of oxygen, medicines etc, when the second wave was lashing out. This judgment came after Modi Government was picking up fights with Opposition parties’ ruled states like Delhi, Maharashtra on supply control of oxygen cylinders and much-needed medicines. Even the Centre challenged BJP-ruled Karnataka’s oxygen supply quota ordered by the High Court. These things led to many questions as to what is happening inside Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Government. Modi’s style of avoiding Cabinet Ministers and dealing with top government officials has really messed up the situation in handling the second wave chaos, where more than two lakh people lost their lives.
The top court also sought data on the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated (with one, and both doses), as against eligible persons in the first three phases of the vaccination drive.
On Monday too, the apex court criticized the differences in vaccine pricing by the Centre and states. On Wednesday seeking all files on vaccine supply and distribution policy, the apex court opined that the Constitutional Court can’t be a mute spectator in such a situation. The Court also sought details this time of the Rs.35,000 crore set aside for tacking Covid pandemic. PGurus recently published a report analysing the failures in vaccine policy and supply.
The special bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said that “while filing its affidavit, Union of India shall also ensure that copies of all the relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking and culminating in the vaccination policy are also annexed on the vaccination policy”. The bench asked the Centre to ensure that each issue dealt with by it in the order is responded to individually.
“The complete data on the Central Government’s purchase history of all the COVID-19 vaccines till date (Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V). The data should clarify: (a) the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Central Government for all 3 vaccines; (b) the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and (c) the projected date of supply,” the bench said. The top court also sought data on the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated (with one, and both doses), as against eligible persons in the first three phases of the vaccination drive.
“This shall include data pertaining to the percentage of the rural population as well as the percentage of the urban population so vaccinated,” it said, adding that an outline for how and when the Central Government seeks to vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2 and 3, shall also be given. The bench noted that the Centre its May 9 affidavit stated that every state/ UT shall provide vaccination free of cost to its population and said that it is important that individual governments confirm/deny this position before the apex 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 to be vaccinated for free at a State vaccination centre.
“Hence, we direct each of the State/ UT governments to also file an affidavit within 2 weeks, where they shall clarify their position and put on record their individual policies,” the bench said. It listed the matter for further hearing on June 30.
On May 31, the top court had highlighted the “digital divide” between rural and urban India and posed searching queries to the Centre on mandatory registration on Cowin for COVID jabs, vaccine procurement policy and differential pricing, saying the policymakers “must-have ears on the ground” to effectively deal with the “unprecedented” crisis. Asking the Centre to “smell the coffee” and ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are available at the same price across the nation, the top court had advised the government to be flexible with its policies to deal with the “dynamic pandemic situation”.
 COVID-19: Why is vaccination drive collapsing in India – May 23, 2021, PGurus.com
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