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India: Supreme Court questions govt on its paid Covid vaccination policy

Web report/New Delhi
Filed on June 3, 2021
AFP

(PUNIT PARANJPE)

Court asks government to take a fresh review of its vaccination policy and address concerns raised by people


Refusing to be a silent spectator “when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies,” the Supreme Court of India on Wednesday declared the centre’s policy of free Covid-19 vaccines for the 45-plus age category and healthcare and frontline workers, but asking the rest of the citizens to pay for it was “prima facie arbitrary and irrational.”

The court asked the central government to take a fresh review of its vaccination policy and address the concerns raised by others and file an affidavit in a fortnight.

Referring to the government’s logic that manufacturers were selling Covid-19 vaccines to it at hefty discounts because of the bulk orders that it was placing, the court demanded why it could not buy all the vaccines at a discount instead of leaving states to fend for themselves.

“The central government justifying its lower prices on account of its ability to place large purchase orders for vaccines raises the issue as to why this rationale is not being employed for acquiring 100% of the monthly Central Drugs Laboratory doses,” it asked the government.

The apex court also noted if the central government’s unique monopolistic buyer position was the only reason for it getting vaccines at much lower rate from manufactures, then “it is important for us to examine the rationality of the existing Liberalised Vaccination Policy against Article 14 [right to equality] of the Constitution, since it could place severe burdens, particularly on States/Union Territories suffering from financial distress,” it added.





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