Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
File Photo

NEW DELHI: Taking up the suo moto case on Covid-19 that caused former Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde some embarrassment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday frowned at the Centre for allowing manufacturers to charge different vaccine prices and asked it to invoke the Patent Act to regulate them.

It regretted that the Centre, which has the authority to regulate prices in the health sector, was watching a national crisis from the sidelines like a silent spectator.

The Bench, headed by Dr Justice D Y Chandrachud, further asked the Centre to clarify the basis and the rationale for pricing of Covid-19 vaccines

Stressing that it cannot be a mute spectator, the Bench declared that it will not stop the High Courts from exercising their jurisdiction to look into the Covid-related issues. "High courts are in a better position to look into this. The Supreme Court has to intervene, too, because there may be national or systemic issues,’’ said Justice Chandrachud. He was possibly alluding to the alleged attempt by then CJI Bobde to allow the Supreme Court to usurp all ongoing Covid-19 cases in over half a dozen High Courts, to give a relief to the government.

In its order, the court also asked the Centre to clarify how it is going to meet the vaccine shortage when the universal rollout begins in four days

"The Union shall also clarify the projected requirements of vaccine due to enhancement of coverage (18-45 age group),’’ the court order said.

Taking on record the Centre's affidavit submitted by the AG, the Bench listed the following directives in its order:

The Centre should apprise the court on the total availability of oxygen, its projections of future demand and steps taken to augment the supply; brief the court on steps taken to ensure supply of drugs such as Remdisivir; a comprehensive panel of doctors should be made available for citizens to know steps to be taken during the pandemic. The steps taken will be replicated at all state levels

The Bench also asked the Central government whether or not resources of para-military and defence forces can be requisitioned to tackle the second wave of the pandemic.

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