Supreme Court (Image: Shutterstock)
The Supreme Court, on May 2, asked the Centre to revisit its COVID-19 vaccine policy, stating that the existing policy was a detriment `to the right to public health'.
"While we are not passing a conclusive determination on the constitutionality of the current policy, the manner in which the current policy has been framed would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health, which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution," the court order said.
The apex court bench, comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, issued an order in the suo moto case entitled "In Re Distribution of Essential Services and Supplies During Pandemic".
The top court also sought details of aid provided to Bharat Biotech, which manufactures Covaxin, and Serum Institute of India that produces Covishield, legal website, Live Law, quoted the Supreme Court order as saying.
The order also asked the Centre to clarify how pricing and procurement was determined. According to the existing policy, vaccine manufacturers can release 50 percent of their supply to state governments, and the latter can purchase doses directly.
The top court also directed the central government to rectify the deficit in supply of oxygen to National Capital of Delhi (NCT) on or before midnight of May 3.
The SC also asked the central government to prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralise location of the emergency stocks.
"The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and are to be replenished on a day to day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the states," Live Law said.
Apart from this, the apex court also asked the central and state governments to notify all Chief Secretaries, Director Generals of Police and Commissioners of Police that any clampdown on information on the social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking or delivering help on any platform, will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by the court.
The Registrar (Judicial) has been directed to place a copy of the Supreme Court order before all District Magistrates in the country.
"The central government shall, within two weeks, formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals, which shall be followed by all state governments," the SC bench added.
The bench clearly noted that till the time such a policy was formulated by the central government, no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state or Union Territory (UT) for lack of local residential proof of that state or UT, or even in the absence of identity proof.
"The central government shall revisit its initiatives and protocols, including on the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, availability of essential drugs at affordable prices and respond on all the other issues before the next date of the hearing," the legal website quoted the bench as saying.
The SC also asked the Centre to clarify how pricing and procurement was determined, directing both the Centre and state governments to put on record the efforts taken to curb the spread of the virus and the measures that they plan to take to counter the pandemic in the near future.
On the issue of imposition of lockdown, the apex court said that governments might also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the Second Wave in the interest of public welfare, but would have to make prior arrangements to cater to the needs of marginalised communities.