New Delhi: The Supreme Court asked the Union government tough questions on its COVID-19 vaccination and procurement policy.
Hearing a petition related to supply of vaccines, essential drugs and medical oxygen for coronavirus patients on Monday, a three-member bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud referred to the fact that several states are having to issue global tenders to procure COVID-19 vaccines and also voiced concerns about mandatory registration in the CoWIN app for getting the jab.
“You keep saying digital India, digital India, but you are not aware of the ground realities,” Justice Chandrachud told Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, highlighting the “digital divide” in India and also the fact that a large section of the population doesn’t have access to smart phones and internet.
“You can certainly have registration, but how will you answer the digital divide? How do you answer the question about migrant labourers who have to go from one state to another? A poor worker from Jharkhand has to go all the way to a common centre?” Justice Chandrachud argued.
On the matter of procurement of vaccines, Justice Chandrachud asked: “Several states are issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19… Is this the policy of the Central government?”
He went on to question, “Why are states left in the lurch? The Government of India has to procure the vaccines, why differential in vaccine pricing.”
The bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao, observed that “policymakers must have ears on the ground, there is a digital divide… The Centre must see what’s happening across the country and change its policy accordingly.”
The court said right now, the policy completely excludes residents in rural areas, and advised that the policy should be amended.
“You have to have a policy that takes care of new issues so that states are guided,” the court added.