Supreme Court to hear COVID-19 drug, oxygen supply case today; Centre files affidavit

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (May 10) will hear on suo moto case relating to oxygen supply, drug supply, and various other policies in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centre has filed its affidavit before the apex court in connection with the case on Sunday. A three-judge bench of the top court, headed by Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrahud, will hear the case today.

Ahead of a crucial hearing in the case involving distribution of essential supplies and services during COVID-19 pandemic, the Union of India (UOI) filed its affidavit in connection with the case, stating that its COVID vaccine strategy is formulated to address immediate, medium-term and long-term perspectives.

The Centre`s affidavit accessed by ANI said, “On an immediate front, the availability, augmentation, and enhancement of vaccines and completing vaccination of vulnerable groups is the topmost priority of the nation,” adding “While the pricing of vaccines is an important medium to long term issue for India, for which the UOI is making all efforts on multiple platitudes on national as well as the international arena.”

It reportedly said, “On the advice of experts, the current strategy of the government is to “focus on priority areas of vaccination and to allow enhanced production and further research and development to continue and expand with full potential without any real or perceived constrictions”.

It further said that steps that are taken for immediate needs, to tide over an imminent crisis, may turn out to be imprudent in the long run, adding “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 up-gradation of knowledge pool with further experience and research.”

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, while the Central Government is duty-bound to fully assist this court.

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”.

It further submitted that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) enunciated and already intimated all state governments regarding a policy of setting up three-tier health infrastructure for appropriate management of suspect/confirmed COVID-19 cases.

It added that the guidance document issued in this regard on April 7, 2020, envisages setting up of COVID Care Centre (CCC) that shall offer care for mild cases. These have been set up in hostels, hotels, schools, stadiums, lodges, etc., both public and private. Functional hospitals like Community Health Center (CHCs), etc. which may be handling regular, non-COVID cases may also be designated as COVID Care Centers as a last resort.