Ahead of a crucial hearing in the Supreme Court in the suo moto cognizance case involving the distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central government on Sunday filed its affidavit in connection with the case.
According to a report by Live Law, the Centre has defended its COVID-19 vaccination policy and said that in times of such grave and unprecedented crisis, the executive functioning of the government needs discretion to formulate policy in the larger interest.
The Centre added that the price factor will not have any impact on the ultimate beneficiary namely, the eligible person getting the vaccine since all state governments have already declared their policy decision that each state will be administering vaccine to its residents, free of cost.
Urging against judicial interference on its vaccine policy, the Centre's Sunday night affidavit said: "Any overzealous, though well-meaning judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences, in absence of any expert advice or administrative experience, leaving the doctors, scientists, experts and executive very little room to find innovative solutions on the go."
The Centre said it is most respectfully submitted that in the times of such grave and unprecedented crisis which the nation is fighting the disaster of an unprecedented magnitude, the executive functioning of the government needs discretion to formulate policy in larger interest.
"It is submitted that in view of the unprecedented and peculiar circumstances under which vaccination drive is devised as an executive policy, the wisdom of the executive should be trusted," said the affidavit.
The affidavit said with a view to ensure that there is no disparity between the states inter-se, with active consultation of the Centre with both the manufacturers, the central government has successfully fixed uniform price to be paid by all the State Governments.
Defending its vaccine policy, the affidavit said: "The policy is framed as above which is just, equitable, non-discriminatory and based upon an intelligible differentiating factor between the two age groups (45 plus and below)."
The affidavit added: "This policy thus, conforms to mandate of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and is made after several rounds of consultation and discussion with experts, State Government and vaccine manufacturers requiring no interference by this Court as while dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude, the Executive does have a room for free play in the joints, in larger public interest."
The Centre said the policy was framed keeping in mind limited availability of vaccines, vulnerability of age groups, and the fact that vaccinating the entire country was not possible in one go due to the suddenness of the pandemic, as the prime considerations.
The Centre emphasized that it is ensured that the pricing of vaccine is also not only reasonable but uniform throughout the country removing any possibility of one citizen in one state getting the vaccine at a higher price as compared to a similarly situated resident residing in another state.
"Due to consultations and "persuasion" by the Central Government both the manufacturers of vaccine, Bharat Biotech and SII, have declared their respective prices which are uniform for all State Governments," added the affidavit.
While the Central Government is duty-bound to fully assist this court, the affidavit said that the top court is looking into the steps taken on national, regional and grassroots levels for management of this global pandemic and its waves/surges, propelled by mutated versions of the virus.
It also said that the policy, strategy and steps taken by the executive, based on expert medical and scientific advice, have to be appreciated in the context of a medical crisis and "as the decisions are taken after detailed deliberations at the highest executive level, for germane reasons, no interference is called for in judicial proceedings, leaving it open for the executive to discharge its executive functions in the larger interest".
A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrahud will hear the case on Monday.
(With inputs from Agencies)