SC adjourns to May 13 hearing in suo motu case involving distribution of essential supplies, services during COVID-19

The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned for May 13 the hearing in the suo motu case involving the distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID19 pandemic.

The virtual hearing was postponed due to some technical glitch.

A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrahud and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Shripathi Ravindra Bhat was hearing the matter.

“We received your affidavit Mr Solicitor,” Justice Dr D Y Chandrahud said.

Lawyers connected to the case requested the Apex Court to adjourn the matter for May 13, as they all have to read the affidavit, which they could not do so yet.

Union of India (UOI) on Sunday filed its affidavit in connection with the case.

The Centre in its affidavit stated that the COVID vaccine strategy of UOI is formulated to address immediate, medium-term and long-term perspectives.

“On an immediate front, the availability, augmentation and enhancement of vaccines and completing vaccination of vulnerable groups is the topmost priority of the nation,” said the Centre’s affidavit accessed by ANI.

“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,” the UOI said in its affidavit.

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. “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.”

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

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”.

The Centre 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.

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, it said.

On COVID healthcare facilities, the Centre in its affidavit said the dedicated COVID Health Centre (DCHC)yjay shall offer care for all cases that have been clinically assigned as moderate. “These should either be a full hospital or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry. Private hospitals may also be designated as COVID Dedicated Health Centres. These hospitals would have beds with assured oxygen support.”

The Dedicated COVID Hospital (DCH) that shall offer comprehensive care primarily for those who have been clinically assigned as severe. These Hospitals should either be a full hospital or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry/exit. Private hospitals may also be designated as COVID Dedicated Hospitals. These hospitals would have fully equipped ICUs, ventilators and beds with assured Oxygen support, the affidavit further stated.

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