Supreme Court raps Central Govt over its COVID-19 policy

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Policy makers must have an ear to the ground; Apex Court

New Delhi: Supreme Court on Monday slammed the Central Government over its COVID-19 policy and the need for mandatory registration on Cowin to get the vaccination.

“Policy makers must have an ear to the ground,’’ observed a special bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice L N Rao and Justice S Ravindrabhat. Since the Centre has made registration on CoWIN mandatory for vaccination, how is it going to address the issue of digital divide facing the coutry, it asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta during hearing a suo motu case on management of COVID situation in the country.

“You keep on saying the situation is dynamic but policy makers must have their ears on ground. You keep on saying digital India, digital India but the situation is actually different in rural areas. How will an illiterate labourer, from Jharkhand get registered in Rajasthan? Tell us how you will address this digital divide,” the bench sought to know from the Solicitor General.

“You must smell the coffee and see what is happening across the country,’’ the bench said, adding “you must know the ground situation and change the policy accordingly. If we had to do it, we would have done it 15-20 days back”.

As Mehta replied that registration is mandatory as a person needs to be traced for a second dose and as far as rural areas there are community centres where a person can get registered for vaccination, the bench questioned whether the government thinks that this process is viable and asked him to place the policy document on record.

At the outset, it asked the Centre about the vaccine procurement policy of the Centre by referring to the fact that states like Punjab and Delhi are in the process of issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19.

The bench said that even Municipal Corporation like Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has received bids.

“Is this the policy of the central government that the state or municipal corporation can procure the vaccine or the Union Government is going to procure for them like a nodal agency? We want clarity on this and rationale behind this policy,” the bench said.