"Article 1 Says Bharat Shall Be A Union Of States": Supreme Court To Centre -Read Full Courtroom Exchange In Suo Motu Covid Case

Mehal Jain

31 May 2021 3:09 PM GMT

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  • Article 1 Says Bharat Shall Be A Union Of States: Supreme Court To Centre -Read Full Courtroom Exchange In Suo Motu Covid Case

    The Supreme Court on Monday posed tough questions to the Central Government about the rationale of its dual pricing and procurement policy of the COVID vaccines, its diversion from the National Immunisation Programme and its mandate of COWIN App registrationThe three-judge bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat was hearing the suo moto case on COVID...

    The Supreme Court on Monday posed tough questions to the Central Government about the rationale of its dual pricing and procurement policy of the COVID vaccines, its diversion from the National Immunisation Programme and its mandate of COWIN App registration

    The three-judge bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat was hearing the suo moto case on COVID issues (In Re Distribution of Essential Services and Supplies During Pandemic) on May 31.

    At the outset, SG Tushar Mehta advanced that on the vaccination front, there is some development and that he will place on record the facts on affidavit-

    "As per our estimate, from the domestic market which is the Indian market, we expect the entire eligible population to get vaccinated by the end of this year. The central government is also in an active discussion with Pfizer etc. The Minister for External Affairs and even the Prime Minister are interacting on a diplomatic level. Since nothing has been finalised, it will be premature for me to say anything. But the government has been really really positive about it. The discussion is at a very, very advanced age. Subject to any intervening circumstances, we might be able to get it. If that happens, the timeline will be even shorter".

    "We need something like 226 crore doses of vaccine because it is a double dose. You will need to make it available to the nation as a whole. But the only thing we would like to express is the dual pricing policy and the dual procurement. We are trying to understand why you are asking states to fight to pick up the vaccine against each other", posed Justice Bhat.

    "In my earlier affidavit, which I will further elaborate in my next affidavit, we have given the rationale. And it is wrong to say that the states are competing with each other. There is no competition. Some states pay more and get more and some states pay less and get less- that is not the situation", replied the SG.

    [Dual procurement] 'Do you perceive your role in such manner that as the government of India, you must procure all vaccines for the entire country?'- SC

    Justice Chandrachud expressed that the concern is what is the basis for the central government to say that for the 45 and above age group, the central government will procure vaccines which will be supplied free of charge but for the population below 45, the state governments will have their own logistical arrangements with the manufacturers, and the remaining 50% of the procurement will be done by the private hospital. The judge elaborated that two concerns arise here: Firstly, while the Centre has claimed that the mortality in the post-45 age group is higher than the pre-45 group, in the second wave of the pandemic, it was not merely the post-45 which have been seriously affected but the pre-45 population also which suffered a great deal.

    "If the purpose is to procure vaccines, why should the central government confine itself only to the post-45 and leave the pre-45 entirely to the states to arrange? For the pre 45, Goa has to make its own arrangement, Kerala and Uttarakhand have to make their own arrangements. But for post 45, you are making the arrangement. How do you justify this?", asked the judge.

    "Different municipal corporations in the different states are issuing global tenders. The Punjab government has done that. We also know Delhi tried to do that. Is it the policy of the government of India that every municipal corporation in the country and every state have its own device to issue the tender to procure vaccines from foreign suppliers? Look at the capacity of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, which has a budget of more than even some of the Indian states! Can the municipal corporations in West Bengal, UP or Tamil Nadu, which may not have the same kind of budget, compete with it? Does the Union of India contemplate that for the procurement of vaccines, there will be individual states or corporations receiving bids or will you be the nodal agency to obtain these bids and vaccines at one price? This is very, very critical", pointed out Justice Chandrachud.

    "Actually, the position as on date is that some states and some corporations did float global tenders but all global players like Pfizer etc have their own policy and they will deal with only countries, not with anybody else. So that question whether they can float global tenders is an academic one", the SG told.

    Not entirely agreeing with the submission, Justice Chandrachud asked,

    "The BMC has received bids from Sputnik. Are we leaving it to the individual corporations or do you still see yourself as one nation, one country? Do you perceive your role in such manner that as the government of India, we will procure all the vaccines for the entire country and we will distribute. Article 1 of the Constitution says Bharat is a union of states, we are not a federation of states. In a time of national crisis, it is the Union which must procure vaccines for the entirety of the country by negotiating. Individual states cannot be left in the lurch trying to negotiate. You need to give policy guidelines that we are negotiating for the entire nation, we will fix the price and we will distribute these vaccines. You have to come up with some clarity for the states"

    "The procurement is being done post May 1 for the entire India. For the ages of 18 to 45, 50% is provided by the manufacturers to the states pro rata. The rest of the 50% is going to be handed over to the private sector. The price for the states is also fixed by the central government so it is not like that you have to negotiate with the manufacturers", the SG advanced.

    "In the 18 to 45 age group also you may have people with serious comorbidities, so why are we not treating those people on the same footing as those who are being provided vaccine by the government of India, that is the 45+ group?", Justice Chandrachud said. 

    Justice Rao also observed that in view of one theory, the distribution should be on the basis of the health conditions and comorbidities for even the age group of 18 to 45; that the central government should make its policy to see to that,  instead of only looking at the population ratio. "I have been reading in the newspapers that the scientific way of vaccination would be to identify the vulnerable sections in 18 to 45", said the judge.

    Justice Chandrachud also observed that the 25% quota of the vaccine for 18 to 45 age group provided to private hospitals is servicing only the urban areas, perhaps the small towns, but not servicing the core rural areas.

    "So at least 25% of the 50% which is being made available to the state is, by its very nature, being predominantly allocated to the urban areas. The policy as it stands today is entirely exclusive of the need to vaccinate rural areas. That is a very, very serious issue because the main workforce comes from there", the judge had said.

    Justice Bhat also noted that we are still in the nascent stage of vaccination and asked if the government has put out any study as regards the urban-rural share among those who have been vaccinated.

    "The threat of virus and further outbreak is also greatest in the rural areas. We were told that children will be exposed in the third wave. But the country may be overwhelmed in the rural areas. So we have to look at that", he said.

    Justice Rao also added, "75% of the vaccination is being done only in the urban areas. It is not going to the rural areas. The ground reality is very different"

    Justice Chandrachud asked how the logistics actually work out for the 45+ age group for which the vaccine is being provided by the central government.

    "Just give us a broad idea- suppose a given quantity of vials has to be picked up from Bharat Biotech, it is the central government's quota, how do you pick it up and give it to the states? The central government picks up the stocks from the manufacturers and then it is given to the states? You say you have 29,000 depots all over the country...", asked the judge.

    "You have said on the affidavit that it is sent to the Central Drug Laboratory and the states pick it up from there...", observed Justice Bhat.

    "If Your Lordships have a better system, we will take it positively...", began the SG.

    "No, no, that is not what we are saying...but if you can bring the files, we can become more evolved", said Justice Bhat

    "I have nothing to hide", replied the SG.

    Amicus Jaideep Gupta submitted that the policy document does not explain how the central government will redistribute the vaccines among the states out of the 50% that it has procured-

    "There is a power in the policy that the central government may distribute its 50% for the +45 categories among the states . The number of persons in that +45 category will go down as time goes by but the Centre will still get 50% of the production as per the policy. So they can distribute among the states what they don't need. They are saying 'we are ready to distribute it', but there is not a single principle laid down as to how they will distribute it. States are already fighting among themselves saying that so-and-so got more and so-and-so got less"

    Asserting that this submission is factually wrong, the SG stressed that he will be able to explain this. "If my friend is right, then it should go into the policy document. Everybody's mouth will be shut then, nobody will be able to say that you have got more or less", said Mr. Gupta. 

    Amicus Jaideep Gupta raised the following issues-

    "A single source of procurement is to be done. State governments have said that when they approach Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, they are not dealing with them. We have on record that foreign manufacturers, when approached, point blank refused to deal with anybody other than the central government. This decentralisation now means that the state government is to procure"

    He explained that till the 1st of May from 1978, we had one of the finest distribution policies in the world- the Universal Immunisation Programme. Even for the 45+ people, the previous policy has prevailed. "Now, we are seeing a change in the policy. But for the 45+, even today, the central government will procure and the state governments will only administer the vaccine", he said. He urged that the Centre restore the original policy, as that is the solution which has worked beautifully in the +45 population.

    He reiterated that if the Centre leaves 25% of the vaccination to the states, it may present a problem as different states have different economic conditions- "Nagaland may not be able to lift the vaccine even though Maharashtra can".  

    Further, Mr. Gupta indicated that the affidavit states that whatever is the production, based on the population ratio of each state, there will be a pro rata distribution from the manufacturers to the states. "So let us say that West Bengal is 100% and Nagaland is 10%. So if 1oo vaccines are given to West Bengal, then 10 will be given to Nagaland. This is again a statement on affidavit only. Two reports have subsequently come in the press- one by a bureaucrat and one by a minister- saying that the central government is not going to interfere with the distribution of the vaccines to the states. So the people are speaking in two voices", he urged.

    [Differential pricing] 'Centre has to ensure vaccines are available to all states at one price across the board; Can't leave distinction between Centre and states and between pre-45 and post-45'- SC

    "Till date, we have not seen the policy document which articulates the rationale in some form. Maybe not the whole of it but we would like to see the thinking that led to it. Unprecedented steps may have been necessary, no doubt, but to say that the Centre will procure at a lesser price and for the states the manufacturers are free to enforce their own whims? We want to know when the central government has the price-fixing power- you have section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act- why have you left it to the manufacturers to fix the prices for the remaining 50% of the production?", asked Justice Bhat.

    The SG responded that should the bench like to peruse the relevant files of the government, he would not object to that, and that the bench may exercise judicial review over that as well. However, the SG "earnestly" urged the court to "avoid travelling on this path at least at this stage".

    "The entire world is facing this crisis. There are the same manufacturers. It is my anxiety that any indication that the Supreme Court of India is examining the price structure would be perhaps hamper the negotiations" 

    Justice Chandrachud assured that the court is only on the role of the central government and would not even enter the question of price negotiations-

    "There are certain issues that we will not get into, but what is the rationale for this dual policy? The Centre procures at a certain amount but does not say that the manufacturers give it at this rate to the states also. Let us look at the rationale and we will leave it at that if it is constitutional"

    "Of course, Your Lordships would not hamper the process but that impression would go to the manufacturers all over the world", pressed the SG.

     "Nobody is giving that impression. That would be wrong", added Justice Bhat.

    Secondly, Justice Chandrachud noted that the Centre's affidavit indicates that the population in the group of 18 to 45 comes to about 59 crores in India. "50% of the vaccine quota will go to the private hospitals. This means that 50% of the population between 18 to 45 will have to look to the private sector because they will have no vaccines from the state. Can we say that 50% of the population of India between 18 to 45 is in the position to afford the private hospital charges? Not at all!  How do we look at the marginalised, the people who are genuinely economically not able to provide for themselves? This is one very critical area which you need to look at very, very carefully!"

    As regards the pricing issue, Justice Chandrachud asked that the Centre get a lower price from the manufacturers because it buys in bulk and if this is the rationale, is it not equally the responsibility to ensure that the same price is also made available to the states.

    "Why should they have to pay a higher price? Ultimately. you have to take over the responsibility of ensuring that vaccines are available to all the nations at one price across the board because we can't leave this distinction between Centre and states and between pre-45 and post-45. The pandemic has completely evolved in the last two months! 

    As the bench seemed inclined to listen to Amicus Curiaes Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora on these issues, the SG insisted that in this two month period, most of the aspects suggested by the judges have been taken care of. "We cannot undertake an exercise which may not be required", he said.

    At this, Justice Chandrachud inquired,

    "Are you willing to state today that for the pre-45 age group, that is 18 to 45, the central government would take upon itself the responsibility of distributing to the states?That would resolve the entire issue"

    "I don't have experience of administration. I won't be able to state so. There are several factors which go into the decision. But I can assure that the states are not left to fend for themselves. I had pointed out that the central government negotiated and a particular price is fixed for every state. So it is not that Maharashtra can pay 500 and purchase more quantities", replied the SG.

    "That price is still higher than the price you are paying!", pointed out Justice Chandrachud.

     The SG urged that "something is there" and that he will put his explanation on record.

    Justice Chandrachud remarked that the court does not wish to enter into the area of policy but the policy has to be a reasonable one.

    "You say you are going to negotiate the price for all the states? That should be clear on the records. There are conflicting stands of the manufacturers. What we have on record is that there is no clear one price for all the states", observed Justice Bhat.

    "Whatever the justification you have, you must show it to us. Why must there be two prices? One for the states and one for the Union? Why can't you only collect the vaccines and ask for the refund from the states? That is a matter of accountancy", continued Justice Bhat.

    The judge expressed the view that after all, those in the age group of 18 to 45 are the most active as they are the ones who are working and they should not be left out.   

    "Your Lordships are right. But we are faced with a situation where limited choices are available. And it is of utmost priority that vaccination should be fast. So if somebody orally intervenes that you will not charge 500 from the states and you will give it for 300...(unclear)...But I will place the necessary details on record", said the SG.

    On the pricing issue, Mr. Gupta urged,

    "150 is the price at which the Union gets it but the states will have to pay 300 to 400. Ultimately, it is the tax-payer who is going to pay for it. So why doesn't the Centre procure for the whole country? Even the monopoly advantage is not there with the states. 25% of the vaccine would go to private sources. Only 25% of the total production is available to the states. Is this proportionate, given that most of the population is in the age group of 18 to 45? Even the private hospitals are not everywhere. Only the people in metropolitan cities, and there also only in part (who can afford the charges), will be able to avail of the vaccination"

    Mr. Gupta passionately urged that differential pricing should not be done- 

    "It does matter to the citizens even though the centre is saying that it doesn't matter because the citizens are getting it for free. The total bill will be higher then, than what it is right now with the Centre getting it for 150. And even at 150, the manufacturers are making profit. Outside India, they are selling it at much less. Justice Bhat agreed that the price of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, being sold as Covishield in India, is 2 dollars internationally.

    Mr. Gupta pointed out that in the UOI's affidavit, the Joint Secretary now asserted that states have agreed to give vaccination free of cost  to the age group of 18-44, but we can't go by that because the policy document does not say that the states will administer free vaccination.

    "The states are grumbling, they have filed applications before Your Lordships! If at all we go by the affidavit, then Your Lordships must call all the states to give an undertaking so that we have an enforceable right. As of now, there is nothing in the policy which says that the 18 to 44 can get it free. For that, we will first have to get the states to agree that it is free to everybody who wants it free of cost", he advanced.

    Ms. Arora also submitted that when we are dealing with the age-group of 18 to 44, it is a huge segment of population.

    "This has resulted in a very classic example which the government needs to look at– Those who have registered on COWIN and have not gone to government dispensaries or hospitals are getting calls from the private hospitals to pay 900 or 100 rupees and get vaccinated! What does that imply? It implies that if I have the money I will get the vaccine immediately. But for a family of 4, I will have to pay Rs. 4000 in the private hospital. For an average Indian family, it is a very high price", she advanced.

    "I fail to understand why there is a huge difference in the price. The policy which has been followed by this country since the beginning, which is also being followed by other countries during the pandemic, is to provide vaccines free of charge to everybody.  The entire responsibility of giving vaccines is at the doorstep of the Centre. It is very essential that the Centre lay the policy before the court as to what is its objective behind the huge difference in price between when the Centre procured it and how the states get it-150 versus 300/400 for the states and 900 for the private", continued.

    Justice Bhat pointed out that it is not the central government which has fixed the price of Rs. 900, it is by the private manufacturers.

    "If there is a shortage, it could become 1000 or 2000. There needs to be some advisory by the government. We have seen in this pandemic only that for all those drugs which were in short supply, the prices were hitting the roof. All of us are aware. Despite price control, where there is a shortage, all kinds of activities happen and there is very little that one can do. But it is the consumer, the patient who is at the receiving end. So who will have the responsibility? Essential drugs would fall in the Central List", said the judge.

    Justice Rao commented that there is a difference of prices even between the different manufacturers, that COVAXIN is for Rs. 1200 while COVISHIELD is for Rs. 900. 

    Ms. Arora said that under Entry 29 of the concurrent list, this responsibility to supply vaccines free of charge to the citizens is at the doorstep of the Centre. It cannot leave it to the states. 

    "Whether it was polio or smallpox or Cholera, the Centre has always followed this policy!  Why did we change the policy that we have had since the Independence?", advanced Ms. Arora.

    'Can't straightaway say that government should not change vaccination policy, but new policy also must meet test of reasonableness'- SC

    Justice Rao asked Ms. Arora how the Court can straightaway say that the government should not have changed its policy.

    "It is alright if we examine the new policy and see that it is violative of the constitutional principles, it is causing damage to the society etc. But how can we bring down the government to the whole policy?", observed Justice Rao. 

    "We understand what you say- that the country has had the old policy since the time of independence, that other nations are operating on similar lines, that these are not normal times and the citizens suffer much more in the pandemic situation. But can we say that you should not change the policy?", asked the judge.

    "No policy is cast in stone", remarked Justice Bhat.

    " The point is that the new policy also has to meet the test stone of reasonableness. It must comport with the right to life which includes the right to Public health", added Justice Chandrachud.

    The judge added that the Centre cannot adopt an ad hoc approach of responding to the problems as they come on a day-to-day basis.

    "You have to plan for the problems and then formulate it in the policy. We need clear guidelines for the entire country. Otherwise, the absence of guidelines and comprehensive policy will lead to chaos as we have different administrative authorities in different parts of the country. You need your policies to anticipate and formulate what has to be done. Then there will be clarity of guidance for the entire country", said the judge.

    "We would also like the policy to be amended. Let's not just have an affidavit by the joint secretary saying this is what is going to be done. If issues arise, the policy document has to be amended so that it provides clarity of guidance to the states and all the administrative authorities across the country", observed the judge.

    Insisting that the affidavit has been filed by the additional secretary, which he said, is the highest authority, the SG added that the government is not taking the proceedings as adversarial.

    "Most of the Amicus's suggestions are in the positive direction. I have noted all points", he said.

    "Let us make an appeal to you and we will drive home the point while making the appeal- let there be a degree of flexibility. It can't be that once we have laid down the policy, now we are not going to change it. Let me tell you from my experience as a judge that the ability to admit that I am wrong is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. We stand by something on the grounds that we have applied our minds. But we need to take into account the evolving situation. The purpose of this hearing has been dialogical, to ensure dialogue between different stakeholders so that we have inputs before the central government to modify its policy. We are not going to run the central government or dictate policies for you. But the purpose of this hearing is to create a form for dialogue so that diverse voices across the spectrum can be heard", said Justice Chandrachud.

    Continuing, the judge remarked that the idea is not to criticise or pull down anybody-

    "There is strength in the arms of the nation. The fact that the External Affairs minister traveled to the US to enter into a dialogue shows that the situation is being dealt with seriously"

    [COWIN, Digital Divide & Rural India] 'You can't say that if you don't register, we won't accept you for vaccination! You need to go forward and find flexibility!': SC

    Justice Chandrachud had flagged as an issue the digital divide in so far as everybody has to register on the COWIN App to be able to get vaccinated. "You said people can go to the common service centres or their friends or NGOs. Is it realistically possible for people in the rural areas to register on COWIN. Our secretaries have tried to register on COWIN, we know what the situation is!"

    As the bench, once more, expressed the desire to hear the Amicus, the SG interjected to say, "They might possibly not be aware of several points- like if you don't have a phone or an internet connection, there is a facility available. Now, vaccination is taking place within housing societies also through the Residents' Welfare Associations. But since there is a certain protocol that you have to wait for half an hour after the jab, individually house-to-house is not advisable..."

    "But registration is still mandatory", pointed out Justice Chandrachud.

    "If I am a villager and I don't have a mobile phone, every village has a computer connected with the Internet! I would go there and they would register me! When the requisite number of persons is reached, someone would come and vaccinate them!", pressed the SG.

     "An agricultural labourer also has to get registered at the common service centre in the village? The point of the matter is that the situation may be of the pandemic but the policymakers must have their ears to the ground! That poor agricultural labourer from Jharkhand who has gone to Rajasthan for work and has to get a vaccine has to go to the common service centre and get registered in Rajasthan?",  noted Justice Chandrachud.

    The SG urged the bench to appreciate the rationale behind it- "We are dealing with the vaccine which has two doses. We need to have registration. If Mr. Tushar Mehta got vaccinated on May 1, there needs to be registration to say that four weeks later, Mr. Mehta needs to get his second dose. Otherwise, the entire exercise will be futile"

    "You can have registration but how do you answer the digital divide. How are you ensuring that migrant workers or migrant labourers who go from one state to another are not left out?", asked Justice Chandrachud.

    The SG drew the bench's attention to the Centre's affidavit, insisting that now there are further improvements also. "The issue has been dealt with by Executive action the intentions of which are not in doubt. But let us see how the Executive has taken the decision", he said.

    "We are not saying we will take the decision. We are only asking you to please smell the coffee! If we wanted to do it, we would have done it 15 days ago! Please see what is happening across the nation and amend the policy!", stressed Justice Chandrachud.

    "The government has a better understanding than us of what the situation is on the ground in rural areas", the SG insisted.

    The SG indicated from the affidavit that the Co-WIN digital portal permits registration of more than one person (at present 4 persons) using the same mobile number; that much of India resides in rural areas which are governed by local self governments at grass root levels like Panchayats which are very successfully representing rural India in all schemes of State Governments as well as Central Government and almost all these gram panchayats have established common service centres which have a digital platform to be used by the people. 

    He continued to show that at present, for vaccination of the 18-44 years age group, only online system of registration & booking is available which is a decision taken keeping in mind several administrative factors and for effective vaccine administration- the doses of vaccine are not unlimited, constraints of production capacities and permitting walk in vaccination/registration is anticipated to result in overcrowding at the vaccination centres, defeating the very purpose of vaccination, there are human resource constraints in terms of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, infrastructural constraints in terms of a large enough waiting area to ensure social distancing, designated place for administration of the dose and earmarked area to wait after the jab.

    "However, this has been relaxed now. Walk-in is now permitted subject to availability. As the number of 45+ persons coming in reduces gradually, more walk-ins will be accepted", added the SG.

    When Justice Chandrachud posed a specific query as to whether walk-ins are permitted for the 45+ group across the country, the SG replied in the affirmative.

    At this, Amicus Gupta intervened to submit that for the 45+, walk-in was always an option, but in the new policy, the Centre has said that those up to 45 have to register on COWIN. "For it to be an enforceable aspect, it should be included in the policy document. We know how much difficulty we have been having in getting a COWIN appointment- we keep trying, trying and trying and we still don't get. How will that man, who is supposed to go to a common service centre, get an appointment? He can't stand there and try and try and try", urged Mr. Gupta.

    "Yes! He is a daily wager...", agreed Justice Chandrachud.

    Justice Bhat also said that he has been getting distress calls from all over- from Kochi, from Bangalore, and not just Delhi- saying that young people in their 40s and 30s can't register because within two minutes, all slots are booked.

    "We are not on the policy, we are not going to tell you what it should be. There is an order of this Court of April 30 pointing out what is happening on the ground and that there has to be a little bit of flexibility on the part of the policy makers. It can't be that 'we have thought of it, we are the central government, we know what is best for the country'. Our arms are strong enough to come down if we find there is non-compliance. We expect a certain degree of flexibility on the part of the central government. You need to see that it is the Court which is pointing out certain things and that it is a constitutional authority. You need to come back and tell how you have modified it. We don't find this!", observed Justice Chandrachud.

    "The lack of digital access is there, regardless of all that you and I may say! I am the chairperson of the E-committee of the SC and I know what the access to the resources is in the rural areas. You have common service centres but digital literacy is far from perfect. You can't say that if you don't register, we won't accept you for vaccination.You need to go forward and find flexibility!"

    "I bow down. Your Lordships' views are well respected. After the last affidavit, there is flexibility brought in. We have commenced workplace vaccination where registration would be easier. We will place the changes on record", said the SG

    "Please give us the policy document. We don't want to rely on an affidavit by the Joint Secretary. The affidavits only tell us that the situation is dynamic, it is evolving. We want to go by the policy document of the government of India- what is the policy in black and white. We have legally trained minds and are trained to see the documents", Justice Chandrachud finally stated.

    'Affidavit indicates that production capacity not sufficient to meet proposed 6-month timeline for vaccination'- Amicus Jaipdeep Gupta

    Amicus Gupta insisted that it is the need of the hour that vaccination be completed within the shortest period of time. He mentioned as per the calculations of a Hyderabad-based scientist M. Vidyasagar, who is also associated with the government, 100 crore doses of vaccine are required by the end of January for us to be able to cover the basic minimum requirements. "He says that if you can do more, then that is good, but if you can't then you cover the basic minimum requirement within 6 months if you wish to control the pandemic. If the same cannot be done, then the virus has the option and the ability to attach itself to a large number of people and mutate! That is why the objective is to vaccinate as many as possible by December, and latest by January", explained Mr. Gupta.

    Indicating that 3 statements have been made so far at the behest of the Centre that the government would be able to vaccinate all by December, the Amicus urged that from the facts and figures apparent from the affidavit itself, that does not seem possible. "As per the present affidavit, the total vaccine capacity in this country, even if we include Sputnik, is 15 crores per month. So the six-month deadline is not possible. Let them point out how the production capacity has increased or is likely to increase in the course of the next few months so that by the end of December or by the end of January, we are able to that say that the largest number of persons are vaccinated. They have said that they can't give us the actual vaccine capacity but we have calculated based on that of Serum, Bharat Biotech and even Sputnik. They say some other vaccines are in the stage of development. How can the government say that they will give us the vaccine which is in the stage of development, for which there is no guarantee  of being approved? It is not possible!"  he urged.

    The SG assured that there is no such vaccine which the government has relied upon to calculate the capacity.

    "One of your very senior officers, who comes on television every day has said that you are relying on that. They have filed some affidavits in Kerala High Court that the capacity is also not being reached! So there is a problem in production up to the capacity also!", advanced Mr. Gupta.


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