In an affidavit submitted by the Centre in the Supreme Court, the Centre justified its vaccination policy and said how the policy “requires no interference by Courts”. The development came when the Supreme Court questioned Centre’s mismanagement and called out factors such as vaccine pricing differential, vaccine shortage, and slow rollout.
Earlier, the top court observed that the Centre’s vaccination policy was against the Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian constitution and violated the rule of a right to health that’s bestowed on every Indian citizen. The court had asked the Centre for a consideration of vaccine price so that it withstands Article 13 and Article 21. The Centre’s direction came after both the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech announced different prices for COVID-19 vaccines for states and for private hospitals.
In response to the above-mentioned concerns raised by Supreme Court last week, the Centre submitted an affidavit that defended its vaccination policy. The Centre further urged Supreme Court against excessive “judicial interference” and said how “overzealous, though well-meaning, intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences”.
“Judicial intervention may lead to unintended consequences”: Centre
The Centre in its affidavit wrote how in a global pandemic, where the strategy of a nation is driven by scientific opinion, there is little to no room for any judicial interference.
“Any overzealous, though well-meaning, judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences… in absence of any expert advice or administrative experience, leaving doctors, scientists, experts and executive very little room to find innovative solutions on the go,”
-the affidavit further added.
Defending the vaccination policy, the Centre’s affidavit said how the policy was just, non-discriminatory and “based upon an intelligible differentiating factor between the two age groups (45 plus and those below).”
Vaccination meets standards of Article 14 and 21
Further, the affidavit also tried to prove that the vaccination policy indeed meets the standards of Article 14 and 21 and said, “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…” It also added how the policy requires no interreference by the Supreme Court as the Executive power does have all the rights to free play, considering the public interest.
Informal consultations with vaccine makers done
On the pricing differential, the affidavit went on to lengths and said how the states may procure the vaccines, the Centre has conducted several informal consultations with vaccine makers and has ensured that the price remains uniform for all the states. The affidavit also added that the vaccine distribution is based on rational criteria so that any bargaining powers which may have a detrimental consequence will be eliminated.
“The Central Government by nature of its large vaccination programme, places large purchase orders for vaccines as opposed to the State Governments and/or Private Hospitals and therefore, this reality has some reflection in the prices negotiated. The price 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.”
-the Centre’s affidavit said.
The Centre also said that both vaccine makers, SII and Bharat Biotech have taken immense financial risk in the development and manufacturing of the vaccines and thus,
“it is prudent to take decisions on pricing through negotiations in a transparent consultative process keeping statutory provisions as a last resort under the present circumstances”.
In the affidavit, the Centre also tackled another important aspect of the vaccine drive: the lack of vaccines. The Centre said how it will refer to a possibility of “vaccine pricing decision in India having an inevitable impact on the country’s efforts bringing in more global vaccine manufacturers in to the country”.
“Wisdom of the executive should be trusted”: Centre hits the nail on the message
The Centre in its affidavit seemed to want to put one message forward. That it does not appreciate nor needs the Top Court to be interfering in its policy and execution.
“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,”
-the affidavit said.