India’s Supreme Court slams New Delhi’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for 18-44 year olds as “arbitrary and irrational”

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 3 June 2021: India’s Apex Court has slammed the Indian government on various aspects of the COVID-19 vaccination policies. A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao, and S Ravindra Bhat in the suo moto case on COVID-related issues (In Re-Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic) observed that the Centre’s vaccination policy, which does not provide free vaccination for those in the age-group of 18 to 44 years, as “arbitrary and irrational”.

Live Law quotes the court as saying, ” Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational.”.

The court has also sought from the government the comparison between Indian and international prices of COVID vaccines. It also said, private players producing the vaccine in India got government finance and hence it could not be said they alone bore the risk and cost of manufacture. So, it also asked the government to clarify how the sum of Rs 35,000 crore in the central budget for procuring vaccines has been spent so far. It asked why these funds could not be used to free vaccinations in the age group 18-44 years.

The court directed the government to undertake a “fresh review” of its vaccination policies in the light of the court’s concerns and posted the next hearing of the suo moto case on June 30, 2021.

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