Adopt cooperative attitude, SC tells Delhi govt in getting medicines, oxygen supply to COVID-19 patients

Says Centre shouldn’t leave vaccine pricing and distribution to manufacturers

Adopt cooperative attitude, SC tells Delhi govt in getting medicines, oxygen supply to COVID-19 patients

File photo of the Supreme Court.

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30

Amid an ongoing blame game between the Centre and the Delhi government over shortage of oxygen for hospitals in the national capital, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the AAP government to adopt a cooperative attitude in getting essential medicines and oxygen supply to COVID-19 patients.

“Please adopt a cooperative attitude at the time of a human crisis. A spirit of dialogue... Politics is during elections and not at the present situation,” a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud told the Delhi government counsel.

The Bench, however, noted that the Centre had a special responsibility with regard to needs of citizens of Delhi.

“Delhi represents the nation and there is hardly any one ethnically Delhiite. Forget about someone not lifting oxygen. You have to push through since you have to save lives... You have a special responsibility as the Centre,” Justice Chandrachud told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

“As a national authority which has a responsibility to the national capital you are answerable to citizens,” the Bench—which also included Justice LN Rao and Justice SR Bhat—told Mehta.

“We have told the Centre how it has a special responsibility towards Delhi...but we need to send a message to the highest levels of your government that in this humanitarian crisis we don’t want lives to be lost in political bickering... interact with the Centre...ask your Chief Secretary to speak with the Solicitor General,” the Bench told senior advocate Rahul Mehra who represented the Delhi government.

“It will be followed in letter and spirit,” Mehra assured the Bench.

Mehra said “What has fallen from you (SC) will be respected.”

The top court had last week taken suo motu cognisance of the COVID-19 management and asked the Centre to present a national plan to deal with the health crisis with regard to supply of oxygen and essential drugs, method of vaccination and lockdown.

The Bench said the government should not leave vaccine pricing and distribution to manufacturers.

It sought to know why the Centre was not buying 100 per cent of COVID-19 vaccine doses as it was better placed to determine equity and disbursement.

“Why can’t the Centre follow the national immunization program policy with respect to COVID-19 vaccines?” it asked.

Noting that vaccine manufacturing was publicly funded and hence vaccines became ‘public goods’, it wondered why the Centre can’t buy full doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Why shouldn’t the court issue directions under Section 100 and Section 92 of the Patents Act to enable generics to manufacture COVID-19 drugs without the fear of legal action?” it asked.

After a prolonged hearing, the Bench said, “We will issue a slew of interim directions which will govern the scene for the next 10 days...We will formulate a proper order. It is about important policy changes that Centre needs to consider.”

Noting that the order will be dictated in the evening and uploaded on its website tomorrow morning,” the Bench listed the matter for further hearing on May 10.

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