From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 32
Mains level : Paper 3- Vaccination of Covid-19
The article highlights the role the Supre Court can play in universal vaccination in India.
Why Supreme Court needs to step in
- Amid raging debate over the vaccination strategy, the role the Supreme Court of India can play to safeguard the right to life guaranteed under Article 21, for which it is duty-bound to exercise jurisdiction under Article 32 needs consideration.
- In this regard, universal vaccination is a glimmer of hope.
- The Supreme Court of India can facilitate speed and deeper penetration of universal vaccination, which is now commonly accepted as the only possible solution to the pandemic in the long run.
Issue of patent of vaccine
- It is time to question patents claimed by vaccines that have been developed with aid from the state in research and development.
- These patents, if established, must be immediately acquired with just and adequate compensation and made accessible to all manufacturers.
- This was done for medicines for AIDS and it can be done again under the Patents Act.
- The Court can also issue mandamus to undertake this exercise on an emergency basis.
- Thereafter, all pharmaceutical companies with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act must be allowed to manufacture vaccines at a pre-approved price of cost + 6 per cent return on investment.
- States can also be directed to incentivise the setting up of new manufacturing facilities as a possible third wave, periodic booster doses and the need for ancillary vaccines make it a long-term phenomenon.
- All this has to be ensured in addition to the free import of vaccines approved by advanced nations.
Free for all
- The availability of all the vaccines, whether indigenous or imported, must be free for all the recipients to be paid by GoI.
- The vaccines can be distributed to states on a pro-rata basis as per population and price adjusted as part of general revenue sharing in GST.
- The vaccine administration needs to be ramped up both in state and private facilities.
- For vaccine hesitancy, we need to incentivise the vaccination through a direct deposit of Rs 500 in Jan Dhan accounts for each vaccinated member of BPL families.
- This vaccination can be made compulsory for identifiable categories of persons from MGNREGA beneficiaries to Aadhaar Card holders to income-tax payers to bank account holders to driving-licence holders.
- There must be a strict penalty to be recovered from those who do not get vaccinated without medical reasons.
- Private efforts can be made eligible for reimbursement of cost.
The Supreme Court can steer us, with greater emphasis on the right to life. The pandemic may leave nothing and nobody behind to bicker about.