The Supreme Court has stated that it cannot remain a spectator in a national crisis.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court said Tuesday (April 27th) that it cannot remain a "mute spectator" in the huge resurgence of COVID-19 cases and that its suo motu proceeding on developing a national strategy for COVID-19 management is not intended to replace high court hearings.
The high courts are in a better position to track the pandemic situation within their territorial limits, according to a bench led by Justice D Y Chandrachud, stated. It is necessary for the Supreme Court to intervene in some national issues because there may be issues involving state's coordination, it said.
“We are playing complementary role. If High Courts have any difficulty in dealing with issues due to territorial limitations, we will help,” said the bench comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.
These remarks are significant because last Thursday, some lawyers chastised the Supreme Court for taking suo motu cognizance of the pandemic's resurgence and problems, arguing that high courts should be permitted to resume hearings.
On April 23rd, a bench led by then-CJI S A. Bobde, who has since retired, took a strong stance against some lawyers' "unfair" criticism of "anything which was not part of its order" in a suo motu case related to the framing of national policy on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying "this is how institutions are being destroyed."
On Tuesday, the bench took note of lawyers' submissions on differential pricing of COVID-19 vaccines, including senior advocate Vikas Singh, and asked the Centre to explain the "rationale and justification" for such pricing.
In response to the government's decision to vaccinate all people over the age of 18, the court has asked states to respond by Thursday with plans for dealing with the increase in vaccine demand and the facilities needed.
The bench also demanded that the Centre inform the Supreme Court of the modalities for distributing oxygen and vaccines to states, as well as the monitoring process.
The supreme court also named senior counsel Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora as amicus curiae to assist it in the COVID-19 management case during the video conferencing hearing, as Harish Salve had requested recusal following some controversial remarks by some lawyers.
Last Thursday (April 22nd), the bench expressed concern about the pandemic situation, citing the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases and mortality, and stated that it expected the Centre to issue a "national plan" to deal with the distribution of critical resources and supplies, such as oxygen and medicines.
The supreme court said it appeared that a certain amount of "panic" had been created as a result of people approaching several high courts seeking relief, citing the fact that oxygen to patients infected with the virus is said to be an "essential part" of care.
Before this, the bench had chastised some lawyers for falsely claiming that the apex court was planning to move cases from HCs to itself, despite the fact that no such order had been issued.
It also lamented the imputation of motive by some senior bar members while allowing senior advocate Harish Salve to withdraw as an amicus curiae from the case, after he stated that he did not want the case to be decided under the shadow of his friendship with Justice Bobde from "school and college days."