Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Delhi High Court disposes of PIL seeking reduction in price of Covid-19 vaccines

The plea alleges that the Indian Government is supplying anti-coronavirus vaccines free of cost to various countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka; whereas the price of the same has increased across India.

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The Delhi High Court has said that it will no longer monitor a plea seeking reduction in the price of Covid-19 vaccines across the country and observed that Covid-19 vaccines are now being supplied free of cost to all states and Union Territories under the National Vaccination Programme.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was dealing with a petition filed by a social activist alleging that the price of anti-coronavirus vaccine has increased across India.

The Bench, while disposing of the instant PIL, noted thus:

“As the Covid-19 vaccinations are now available free of cost from Government Vaccination Centres, we see no reason to further monitor this case. Hence, this writ petition is hereby disposed of.”

The Bench, however, envisaged that the government shall continue to supply Covid-19 vaccinations under the National Vaccination Programme.

At the outset, a PIL was filed by one Rakesh, through Advocates A.K Dubey, Deepak Kalra, Vidya Sagar and Pawan Kumar. The plea alleged the Government of India was supplying anti-coronavirus vaccines free of cost to various countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka; whereas the price of the same has increased across India.

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Relying on various newspaper articles, the plea stated that the manufacturer of Covaxin would now be charging Rs 150 from the Centre, Rs 600 from the states and Rs 1200 from private hospitals; while the same was earlier available at an affordable price of Rs 250 at private hospitals. With the increase in price, it would be difficult for most people in India to afford the vaccine, the plea claimed. 

The plea, therefore, prayed for fixing the earlier prevailing rate of vaccine. “It is very surprising that the Respondent No.1 (the Centre) without securing our citizen has been helping out the citizen of other countries, which is good, but same cannot be done while our citizens have been losing their life in India,”  the plea said. The plea added the priority of the Government should be to save its citizens first, and thereafter, other countries should be supplied the vaccine.

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The Centre, through its affidavit, informed the Bench that it is now procuring 75% of the vaccines from the manufacturers in the country and providing the same to all States and Union Territories, which are being administered free of cost at Government Vaccination Centres all over the country. 

Under the revised guidelines for National COVID Vaccination Programme, which came into effect in June this year, the Centre procures 75% of the total vaccines produced by the manufacturers and supply the same free of cost to states and Union Territories.  These doses are administered by states and Union Territories free of cost to all citizens as per priority through Government Vaccination Centres. The remaining 25% of the vaccinations produced are open for procurement by private hospitals.

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