The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Monday about the vaccine-procurement policy by referring to the fact that states are in the process of issuing global tenders to procure jabs for coronavirus.
A bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao, was hearing a suo motu case related to supply of essential medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to coronavirus patients.
“Several states are issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19 and is this policy of the central government?” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as reported by PTI.
The Centre said the entire eligible population would be vaccinated by the end of 2021, the report said.
The government is in talks with companies like Pfizer and if it succeeds, then the timeline for completing the vaccination would change, the law officer said.
Earlier, the top court had constituted a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to the states and Union territories for saving lives of COVID patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.
The court also grilled the central government over the “digital divide”, pointing out that requiring people to register on the CoWIN digital platform before getting the shot will hamper vaccination efforts in rural areas, where access to the internet is unreliable.
“Everyone has to register on CoWIN (but) the digital divide… Is it really possible to expect (people) from rural areas to register on COWIN?” the Supreme Court asked.
To the response: “Villagers can go to computer centers and register… and they will be vaccinated”, the court repeated its question: “Is this really practical?” and also pointed out that migrant workers travelling from one state to another were unlikely to have even that level of access.