HC notice to Centre on vaccine pricing

Court posts petitions for further hearing after April 30

A Division Bench of the lateral High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre, Mahabharata Biotech and Serum Institute of India on two public interest writ petition challenging the Centres liberalised pricing and accelerated national COVID-19 vaccination strategy which prescribes differential pricing for the vaccine.

The notices were issued by the Bench comprising Justice Ashok Menon and Justice Murali Purushothaman when the petitions by M.K. Muneer, Indian Union Muslim League leader, and C.P. Promod, State secretary, All India Lawyers Union (AILU), came up before it.

Mr. Muneer in his petition sought to make available vaccine at uniform prices and provide free vaccination to all citizens, including those in the 18-44 age group. He argued that the pricing policy of the Centre would result in denial of vaccines to those belonging to marginalised and vulnerable sections, violating their right to health and life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The vaccine strategy should have been devised in such manner to minimise vaccine hesitancy and to ensure access for all.

He termed as discriminatory the decision to exclude persons in the age group of 18-44 from free vaccination scheme. He pointed out that as the Centre had already allocated ₹35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines, it would be unfair to push the State government for competing in the market for the procurement of vaccines.

In fact, the allocated funds should be utilised for the vaccination programme for all the citizens. According to him, the prices fixed for the vaccine were double the price of vaccines available in developed countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. According to him, the Centre’s strategy was arbitrary and discriminatory.

In his petition, Mr. Promod, pointed out that the differential pricing for vaccination was unscientific. He said the Centre should have followed the principles of the decade-old National Vaccination Policy for the universal immunisation programmes.

The court posted the petitions for further hearing after April 30 in view of the submission by counsel for the Centre that the Supreme Court was seized of similar petitions and would consider them on April 30.

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