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Centre to SC on vax policy: No judicial interference needed, trust wisdom of executive

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Supreme-Court

In a late night affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court, the Centre defended its Covid vaccination policy, which has been criticised for differential pricing, shortage of doses, and slow rollout.

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.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat will take up the matter arising out of a suo motu case, later Monday.

The affidavit added that the new ‘Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy would further ramp up the pace of COVID-19 vaccination.”

“It aims at liberalized vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage to incentivize vaccine manufacturers to rapidly scale up their production and to attract new vaccine manufacturers. It would make pricing, procurement and administration of vaccines more flexible and ensure augmented vaccine production as well as wider availability of vaccines in the country”, said the affidavit.

The Centre submitted that two vaccines are currently part of vaccination drive since January 2021. Another COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V developed by Gamaleya Institute, Russia and distributed in partnership with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, has received Emergency Use Authorization by the National Regulator in April 2021 and would be available now. Many other candidates are in the late stages of clinical trials and, therefore, expected to receive 50 necessary approval that would further increase the availability of vaccines.

On April 30, the top court while hearing a suo moto matter in connection with Covid-19 management issues, had called for revisiting the Centre’s vaccine policy. The top court had remarked that 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 the Article 21 of the Constitution.

“Sometimes, steps that are taken for immediate needs, to tide over an imminent crisis, may turn out to be imprudent in a long run. However, they need to be appreciated, understood and acknowledged, keeping in mind the complete strategy and policy and holistic picture of immediate-, medium- and long-term needs, while also retaining the capacity to remain dynamic to deal with an ever-mutating virus, whose exact graph cannot be predicted with accuracy and continuous upgradation of knowledge pool with further experience and research,” added the affidavit.

The Centre said both manufacturers (one an Indian company and second a licensee of a British company) have taken financial risk in developing and manufacturing these vaccines and it is prudent to take decisions on pricing through a negotiations in a transparent consultative process keeping statutory provisions as a last resort under the present circumstances.

National News

By giving clean chit to Agra hospital, UP govt did mock drill of inquiry: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

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Priyanka-Gandhi-Vadra

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for giving a clean chit to an Agra hospital where 22 patients died after oxygen supply was allegedly cut during a drill.

She said that the government has closed all the doors of justice.

Priyanka, who is also the in-charge of UP Congress, tweeted: “What an irony. According to reports a hospital in Agra conducted mock drill by allegedly cutting the oxygen supply and the BJP government gave clean chit to the hospital doing mock drill of the inquiry. The paths of government and the hospital have been cleared. By not listening to the complaints of the patients families, the government has shut all hope of justice.”

She also attached a news report claiming that a clean chit was given to the Paeas Hospital, which was caught in a controversy after a video surfaced online.

In the video, a man was heard saying to conduct a mock drill on oxygen supply.

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Crime

Gurugram: FIR against ex-BJP MLA for forging court records

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FIR

Following a complaint by the District Town Planner (DTP), the Gurugram police on Friday registered FIRs against three persons, including a former Gurugram BJP MLA for allegedly forging court records and circulating them on social media, the police said on Saturday.

According to the police, on May 16, former BJP MLA Umesh Aggarwal’s associates had filed a plea alleging contempt of court against the officials of the DTP team for carrying out demolition drive in an illegal colony in Sector-77 Kherki Daula, on June 10.

The District Town Planner R.S. Batth in his police complaint alleged that former MLA, Umesh Aggarwal had circulated forged court summons on social media, claiming that a contempt of court proceedings had been initiated against the officials of the DTP department by a court.

Following the complaint, an FIR has been registered against three under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at Sector-14 police station.

“Before carrying out the demolition drive, all legal formalities were taken but the trio continue to develop an illegal colony,” Bhatt told IANS.

“In connection with the matter an FIR has been registered. Further probe is underway,” said a police officer.

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National News

BJP demands attempt to murder case against Pinarayi Vijayan

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Kerala-Chief-Minister-Pinarayi-Vijayan

Joining issue in the ongoing war of words between chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and new Congress president K. Sudhakaran, on Saturday, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan demanded that an attempt to murder case against Vijayan be lodged.

On Saturday, at Sudhakaran’s press conference, his party colleague K. Gopi, who hails from Vijayan’s village in Kannur, recalled an old incident, that in 1977 when 26 beedi workers were terminated from a society, they led a protest.

“I was leading the protest and then Vijayan with a sword led a group of people and he brandished his sword and it hit my hand and the injury mark is still there,” said Gopi showing his hand and adding that despite his complaint to the local police then, there was no further action in the case.

Muraleedharan told the media in the state capital that if the Congress party is serious in the allegation, they should register a police complaint.

“There is no time limit to an attempt to murder case and hence, Sudhakaran should ask Gopi to go forward and register a fresh complaint,” said Muraleedharan.

He also pointed out that in the past two days both these leaders have been revisiting their college days at the Government Brennen College and have been saying about their deeds then and it shows that both of them were goons and criminals.

“My appeal to both of them is not to portray a great institution like Brennen College by distorting its greatness, and lowering it as a place of goons,” said Muraleedharan.

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