Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Indira Banerjee and MR Shah, JJ has directed AIIMS to postpone the Institute of National Importance Combined Admission Test (INI CET) examination by at least a month, after doctors with an MBBS degree, aspiring for admission to the Post Graduate courses for the July 2021 session in the units of AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), PGIMER Chandigarh, JIPMER Puducherry and NIMHANS Bengaluru filed a petition calling AIIMS’ decision to conduct INI CET 2021 on 16th June, 2021, hasty.

It was argued,

“… the hasty decision taken by AIIMS to conduct INI CET 2021 on 16th June, 2021 has seriously prejudiced innumerable aspirants for admission to Post Graduate courses of the institutions of national importance, who are serving in Covid hospitals in various parts of the country. Many of them have been rendering services at Covid Centres located far away from the examination centres for which they have opted.”

The INI CET is being conducted to fill up 850 MD and MS seats in 6 units of AIIMS, PGIMER Chandigarh, JIPMER Puducherry and NIMHANS Bengalure. As per submissions before the Court, about 80,000 doctors with the MBBS degree are expected to take the INI CET. Post Graduate courses of medical colleges, other than those mentioned above are through the NEET-PG, which has been postponed beyond 31st August, 2021.

In such circumstances, it was argued, that,

“It would be extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible for many candidates for the INI CET to reach their examination centres from their places of duty. Many of the doctors are exposed to and are running the risk of contracting Covid 19 and they may have to isolate and/or quarantine themselves. Even otherwise holding the INICET on 16th June, 2021 will result in spread of the virus and increase in Covid 19 cases.”

Hence, considering the current scenario and the prayers by the doctors, the Court was of the opinion that the fixing of the INI CET on 16.06.2021 is arbitrary and discriminatory, more so since other important examinations including Joint Entrance Examinations, Board Examinations etc. have been postponed.

The Court, hence, directed that the INI CET be postponed by at least a month from 16th June, 2021.

[Poulami Mondal v. AIIMS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 424, order dated 11.06.2021]


For Petitioner(s): Mr. Sanjay R. Hegde, Sr. Adv.

Mr. Arvind P Datar, Sr. Adv.

Ms. Sonia Mathur, Sr. Adv.

Ms. Pallavi Pratap, AOR

M/S. Dharmaprabhas Law Associates, AOR

Dr. Charu Mathur, AOR

Mr. Chandrashekhar A. Chakalabbi, Adv.

Mr. Awanish Kumar, Adv.

Mr. Shiv Kumar Pandey, adv.

Mr. Anshul Rai, Adv.

Mr. Shikha Bharadwaj, Adv.

Mr. Abhinav Garg, Adv.

Mr. Sanjay Kumar Dubey, Adv

Ms. Tanvi Dubey, Adv.

Mr. Puneet Pathak, Adv.

For Respondent(s): Mr. Dushyant Parashar, AOR

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has expressed serious concerns on the ability of the marginalized members of society between the ages of 18-44 years to avail COVID-19 vaccination, exclusively through a digital portal in the face of a digital divide and has said,

“A vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal for vaccinating a significant population of this country between the ages of 18-44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunization owing to such a digital divide. It is the marginalized sections of the society who would bear the brunt of this accessibility barrier. This could have serious implications on the fundamental right to equality and the right to health of persons within the above age group.”

CoWIN Portal and how it works

According to the Union of India,

(i) The CoWIN portal enables one person to register 4 persons using the same mobile number;

(ii) All gram panchayats in the country have Common Service Centres which can effectively enable people residing in rural areas to register online for the vaccination;

(iii) Citizens who do not have access to digital resources could take help from family, friends, NGOs and CSCs;

(iv) Walk-ins cannot be permitted due to the scarcity of vaccines and fears of over-crowding at centres. The online registration requirement counters this fear and also effectively monitors the administration of the second dose. The policy may be re-considered subsequently when more vaccines are available;

(v) Identity proofs are required for the purpose of determining age and keeping a track of persons who are due for the second dose. However, in recognizing the issues arising with the insistence of one of the seven prescribed photo-ID proofs, the Central Government issued an SoP dated 23 April 2021 which enables bulk registration of certain identifiable groups, such as homeless persons, who would be identified and registered by the District Immunization Task Force; and

The Centre clarified that walk-in vaccination facilities will continue for persons over the age of 45 years in separate, designated vaccination centres. This is because vaccinations have been underway for this age group for a while and overcrowding has not been experienced so far.

Data, Drawbacks, and the Digital Divide

In the order, where the Court sought clarification from the Centre on various issues relating to the COVID-19 Vaccination policy, it relied on vaiours reports and surveys that highlighted that:

  • Around 4% of the rural households and 23% of the urban households possessed a computer. In the age group of 15-29 years, around 24% in rural households and 56% in urban areas were able to operate a computer; and
  • Nearly 24% of the households in the country had internet access during the survey year 2017-18. The proportion was 15% in rural households and 42% in urban households. Around 35% of persons in the age group of 15-29 years reported use of internet during the 30 days prior to the date of survey. The proportions were 25% in rural areas and 58% in urban areas.
  • Out of the total population of 1.3 billion, only 578 million people in India (less than 50%) have subscription to wireless data services. The wireless tele density in rural areas is 57.13% as compared to 155.49% in urban areas as on 31 March 2019. The report stated that: “[this] reflects the rural-urban divide in terms of telecom services‟ penetration. Since, the number of wireless data subscribers are less than 50% of the total wireless access subscribers, the number of wireless data subscribers in rural areas would be much lower”.
  • In a few Indian States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam the tele density is less than 75%; and
  • The monthly income of persons living below the poverty line in urban areas and rural areas is Rs 1316 and Rs 896, respectively. However, to access internet data services, a minimum tariff plan would cost around Rs 49, which includes 1 GB data every 28 days. This would constitute 4-5% of the month‟s income of such persons accessing data. As such, the report notes that this would bear a considerable cost for persons living below the poverty line.
  • While there are 2,53,134 Gram Panchayats in India, as on 31 March 2020 only 2,40,792 Gram Panchayats are covered with at least one registered Common Service Centres. Hence, approximately 13,000 Gram Panchayats in India do not have a Common Service Centres.
  • The CoWIN platform is not accessible to persons with visual disabilities. The website suffers from certain accessibility barriers. These include:

(i) Audio or text captcha is not available;

(ii) The seven filters, which inter alia, include age group, name of vaccine and whether the vaccine is paid or free, are not designed accessibly. This issue can be addressed by creation of a drop-down list;

(iii) While visually challenged persons can determine the number of available vaccine slots, one cannot find out the day those slots correspond to. This can be resolved by ensuring that table headers correspond to associated cells;

(iv) Keyboard support for navigating the website is absent;

(v) Adequate time should be given to disabled users to schedule their appointment without the possibility of being automatically logged off; and

(vi) Accessibility protocols, such as use of appropriate colour contrasts, should be adhered to

“… there exists a digital divide in India, particularly between the rural and urban areas. The extent of the advances made in improving digital literacy and digital access falls short of penetrating the majority of the population in the country. Serious issues of the availability of bandwidth and connectivity pose further challenges to digital penetration.”

Clarifications sought from the Government:

“It may not be feasible to require the majority of our population to rely on friends/NGOs for digital registrations over CoWIN, when even the digitally literate are finding it hard to procure vaccination slots.”

  • The issue of over-crowding may also arise at CSCs in rural areas where people would have to visit constantly in hope of a vaccine slot opening up.
  • Certain vaccination centres may be earmarked for on-site registrations for the population aged between 18-44 years without the existing conditions prescribed in the circular dated 24 May 2021, potentially with a view to prioritize those with co-morbidities/disabilities/other socio-economic vulnerabilities. Alternatively, whether specific daily quotas may be introduced for on-site registration at each centre or specific centres.
  • This policy may not allay the issue of hesitancy which may arise from approaching a State authority (such as the District Immunization Task Force) to obtain registration for the vaccination. Whether on-site registration with selfattestation of age to ensure widespread vaccination can be provided.
  • The CoWIN platform and other IT applications like Aarogya Setu should be made available in regional languages. The timeline for ensuring the availability of the platform in multiple regional languages.
  • Conducting a disability audit for the CoWIN website and other IT application like Aarogya Setu to ensure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities.

[In re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 411, decided on 31.05.2021]


Appearances before the Court

Mr Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General

Mr Jaideep Gupta and Ms Meenakshi Arora, learned Senior counsel and Amici

ALSO READ

COVID-19 Vaccination Policy| Supreme Court seeks clarifications from Centre on these five issues

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has, in a bid to understand the vaccination policy for COVID-19, has sought clarification from the Central Government on various aspects enumerated below. While doing so, the Court clarified that,

“This Court is presently assuming a dialogic jurisdiction where various stakeholders are provided a forum to raise constitutional grievances with respect to the management of the pandemic. Hence, this Court would, under the auspices of an open court judicial process, conduct deliberations with the executive where justifications for existing policies would be elicited and evaluated to assess whether they survive constitutional scrutiny.”

Vaccine Procurement and Distribution among Different Categories of the Population

Asking UoI to undertake a fresh review of its vaccination policy, the Court has sought clarification on the following:

  • The roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021;
  • The preparedness with respect to specific needs of children in the event of a third wave of the pandemic in terms of medical infrastructure, vaccination trials and regulatory approval, and compatible drugs;
  • Whether under the policy of the UoI, it is permissible for State/UT Governments or individual local bodies to access vaccine supplies of foreign manufacturers;
  • The number of crematorium workers vaccinated in phase 1. A targeted drive can be conducted for vaccination of the remaining crematorium workers;
  • The State/UT Governments are diverting the vaccines (procured by them at a higher price than Central Government) for the persons in the age group of 18- 44 years to vaccinate persons above 45 years of age, due to a shortage of vaccines being supplied by the Central Government. The manner in which the Central Government will factor this quantity and price differential into their subsequent allocation and disbursal of vaccines to States/UTs for the persons above 45 years of age; and
  • The mechanism for redistribution, if the 25:25 quota in a particular State/UT is not picked up by the State/UT Government or the private hospitals.

Effects of Vaccination by Private Hospitals under the Liberalized Vaccination Policy

“… we are not opposed to the involvement of private hospitals in the vaccination drive. Private health care institutions have an important role as well. The UoI has correctly noted in its affidavit that these hospitals will reduce the burden on government facilities. This was also happening earlier for the vaccination of those above 45 years of age, where the Central Government was providing these hospitals with vaccines and they were allowed to charge patients a nominal fee (Rs 250). However, the issue is about the effect of privatizing 50% of all vaccines available for the 18-44 age group.”

  • The manner in which Central Government will monitor the disbursal of vaccines to private hospitals, specifically those who have hospital chains pan India. Further, whether (i) private hospitals are liable to disburse vaccines pro rata the population of States/UTs; and (ii) the mechanism to determine if private players are genuinely administering the lifted quota in that State/UT alone. The UoI shall place on record any written policy in relation to this.
  • Whether the Central Government conducted a “means-test” of the demographic of a State/UT to assert that 50% of the population in the 18-44 age group would be able to afford the vaccine. If not, the rationale for private hospitals being provided an equal quota for procurement as the State/UT Governments.
  • The manner in which the Centre and States/UTs shall ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines across sections of the society, and how this factors into the rationale of equal apportionment between State/UT Governments and private hospitals.
  • The nature of the intervention with respect to the final, end-user price that is being charged by private hospitals, especially when a cap on procurement by the private hospitals has been set.

Basis and Impact of Differential Pricing

If the Central Government’s unique monopolistic buyer position is the only reason for it receiving vaccines at a much lower rate from manufacturers, it is important for us to examine the rationality of the existing Liberalized Vaccination Policy against Article 14 of the Constitution, since it could place severe burdens, particularly on States/UTs suffering from financial distress.”

While the Court commended the co-operative efforts of the UoI and the private manufacturers in developing and distributing vaccines which are critical to mitigate the pandemic, it sought clarifications on the process of development and augmentation of vaccine production and its pricing for States/UTs and private hospitals.

  • Since the Central Government has financed (officially, Rs 35 crores to BBIL and Rs 11 crore to SII for phase 3 clinical trials) and facilitated the production (or augmentation of production) of these vaccines through concessions or otherwise, it may not be accurate to state that the private entities have alone borne the risk and cost of manufacture. Additionally, the Central Government would have minimized the risks of the manufacturers by granting Emergency Use Authorization to the vaccines, which should factor into its pricing.
  • The manner in which public financing is reflected in the procurement price for the Central Government, which is significantly lower than price for the State/UT Governments and private hospitals. Given that the R&D cost and IP have either been shared between the Central Government and the private manufacturer (in case of Covaxin) or the manufacturer has not invested in R&D of the vaccine (in case of Covishield), the manner in which the pricing of vaccines has been arrived at, with the Central Government refusing to intervene statutorily. The justification for intervening in pre-fixing procurement prices and quantities for States/UTs and private hospitals, but not imposing statutory price ceilings.
  • Comparison between the prices of vaccines being made available in India, to their prices internationally.
  • Whether ICMR/BBIL formally invited contracts for voluntary licensing and if so, whether they have they received viable offers. The manner in which the UoI is independently trying to assist manufacturers for developing BSL3 labs which are essential for Covaxin production.

Vaccine Logistics

  • The manner in which cold storage equipment capacity is being balanced between the Central and State/UT Governments. The manner in which the States/UTs are managing the logistical burden for vaccinating persons aged between 18-44 years, along with persons aged over 45 years.
  • Whether cold storage facilities in India have increased for the COVID-19 vaccination drive; the present numbers, and comparison with the numbers prior to March 2020;
  • Whether the cold storage equipment is indigenously manufactured or is imported. If it is imported, the steps which have been taken to start indigenous manufacturing.
  • The steps being taken to improve the cold storage management for vaccines which may require lower temperature to be stored, compared to the ones which currently have approval in India.

Digital divide

“… there exists a digital divide in India, particularly between the rural and urban areas. The extent of the advances made in improving digital literacy and digital access falls short of penetrating the majority of the population in the country. Serious issues of the availability of bandwidth and connectivity pose further challenges to digital penetration. A vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal for vaccinating a significant population of this country between the ages of 18-44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunization owing to such a digital divide. It is the marginalized sections of the society who would bear the brunt of this accessibility barrier. This could have serious implications on the fundamental right to equality and the right to health of persons within the above age group.”

  • It may not be feasible to require the majority of our population to rely on friends/NGOs for digital registrations over CoWIN, when even the digitally literate are finding it hard to procure vaccination slots.
  • The issue of over-crowding may also arise at CSCs in rural areas where people would have to visit constantly in hope of a vaccine slot opening up.
  • Certain vaccination centres may be earmarked for on-site registrations for the population aged between 18-44 years without the existing conditions prescribed in the circular dated 24 May 2021, potentially with a view to prioritize those with co-morbidities/disabilities/other socio-economic vulnerabilities. Alternatively, whether specific daily quotas may be introduced for on-site registration at each centre or specific centres.
  • This policy may not allay the issue of hesitancy which may arise from approaching a State authority (such as the District Immunization Task Force) to obtain registration for the vaccination. Whether on-site registration with selfattestation of age to ensure widespread vaccination can be provided.
  • The CoWIN platform and other IT applications like Aarogya Setu should be made available in regional languages. The timeline for ensuring the availability of the platform in multiple regional languages.
  • Conducting a disability audit for the CoWIN website and other IT application like Aarogya Setu to ensure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities.

Final directions

The Court directed UoI to file an affidavit, with each of the abovementioned issues responded to individually and no issue missed out.

The affidavit should also provide the following information:

  • The data on the percentage of population that has been vaccinated (with one dose and both doses), as against eligible persons in the first three phases of the vaccination drive. This shall include data pertaining to the percentage of rural population as well as the percentage of urban population so vaccinated;
  • The complete data on the Central Government‟s purchase history of all the COVID-19 vaccines till date (Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V). The data should clarify: (a) the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Central Government for all 3 vaccines; (b) the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and (c) the projected date of supply; and
  • An outline for how and when the Central Government seeks to vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2 and 3.
  • The steps being taken by the Central Government to ensure drug availability for mucormycosis.

The affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks.

[In re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 411, decided on 31.05.2021]


Appearances before the Court

Mr Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General

Mr Jaideep Gupta and Ms Meenakshi Arora, learned Senior counsel and Amici

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ has stayed the Delhi High Court’s order holding the levy of IGST on oxygen concentrators imported as gifts for personal use violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The Ministry of Finance had, through Attorney General K K Venugopal, had argued that on 28 May 2021, at the Forty-Third meeting of the GST Council, a decision was taken to constitute a Group of Ministers to scrutinize the need for “further relief to Covid-19 related individual items immediately”. The Group of Ministers is to submit its report by 8 June 2021.

“… the judgment of the High Court trenches upon a pure issue of policy.”

It was further argued that the exemption which has been granted in respect of the concentrators which are imported by the State or its agencies falls in a clearly distinct classification.

Issuing notice returnable after 4 weeks, the Court directed,

“Till the next date of listing, there shall be a stay of the operation of the impugned judgment and order of the High Court dated 21 May 2021.”

[Ministry of Finance v. Gurcharan Singh, Special Leave to Appeal (C) No.7226/2021, order dated 01.06.2021]


Also read our full report on the Delhi High Court’s order dated May 21, 2021:

Del HC | “I can’t breathe”; HC calls oxygen shortage a ‘George Floyd moment for the citizens’; holds imposition of IGST on oxygen concentrators imported by individuals, unconstitutional

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Ravindra V. Ghuge and B. U. Debadwar, JJ., addressed the issue of dysfunctional ventilators supplied through PM Cares Fund. The Bench remarked,

We find the above situation as regards the dysfunctional ventilators supplied through the PM Cares Fund, to be quite serious. We, therefore, call upon the learned ASGI to state, as to what action would the Union of India initiate in these circumstances.

MUCORMYCOSIS TREATMENT

The State had submitted before the Court that about 1000 hospitals were empanelled in two schemes namely, ‘MJPJAY’ and ‘PMJAY’for treating patients. Out of these 1000 hospitals, 131 were specifically identified as being appropriate facilities for treating Mucormycosis treatment free of cost. It was also submitted that non-governmental hospitals which were amongst these 131 hospitals would be prohibited from charging as per their normal rates while treating patients for Mucormycosis considering the decision of the Government to extend free treatment in such facilities to all the residents of Maharashtra. Further, those private hospitals which were not empanelled under the said schemes would not be covered by the Government Resolution and if any Mucormycosis patient desires to approach a hospital which is not empanelled under the said two schemes, he would have to pay the charges as per the bills raised by such private hospitals.

P. M. CARES FUND VENTILATORS

Insofar as the 150 ventilators received through the PM Cares Fund were concerned, the State government indicated that a company by name, Jyoti CNC had manufactured the said 150 ventilators with the model name ‘Dhaman III’. It was highlighted before the Court that the GMCH had deployed 17 ventilators of which 6 were flawed and was likely to impact the treatment process of the patients. Two extremely serious flaws pertaining to ‘no in-let O2 pressure’ display and ‘patient becoming hypoxic’when on ventilator were noticed which could be life threatening.

It was further demonstrated that 41 ventilators were allotted to 5 private hospitals with the rider that they would not claim ventilators charges from the patients who used them but not a single ventilator was functional and the hospitals had declined to utilise them as a serious threat to the life of the patients exists. Similarly, 37 ventilators available with the GMCH had yet not been un-boxed as the Dean of the GMCH decided not to un-box the remaining 37 ventilators as 113 ventilators which had been put to use suffer from malfunctioning. It was clarified that, on the other hand all the 64 ventilators supplied by several Industrial Establishments were perfectly operational. Considering the above mentioned, the Bench remarked,

We find a serious issue before us as regards the defective functioning of the ventilators. Except the 37 ventilators which are yet to be un-boxed, 113 ventilators put to use are found to be defective.

Noticing some of the politicians have started visiting the Government Medical College and Hospital to find out whether the ventilators are functioning properly or not and some of the politicians have declared that all the ventilators are in good working conditions and some have stated that as the ventilators were lying idle, they have become dysfunctional. Opining that political colour should not be attached to the issue of dysfunctional ventilators as it would cause more botheration to the medical faculty than render assistance, the Bench remarked,

We express our displeasure as regards such indulgence by the people’s representatives. Contrary statements are being issued by the politicians which we find distasteful as some politicians have visited the hospital, posing as if they have the knowledge and the expertise to inspect the ventilators and recommend correctional steps.

In the above backdrop, holding that the situation as regard to the dysfunctional ventilators supplied through the PM Cares Fund was quite serious, the Bench asked the ASGI to state as to what action would the Union of India initiate in these circumstances and what remedial steps would it take.

[Registrar (Judicial) v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 751, Order dated 25-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Amicus Curiae: Satyajit S. Bora
For State of Maharashtra: Chief PP D. R. Kale
For Union of India: ASGI Ajay G. Talhar
For the respondent 8: Adv. S. G. Chapalgaonkar
For the respondent 22: Adv. K. N. Lokhande
For the respondent 25: Adv. R. K. Ingole

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Chief Justice and Aravind Kumar J. gave a slew of directions regarding vaccine allocation, oxygen supply, food security and dignified burial of COVID dead bodies.

Issue 1: Delay in test result reporting

The Court taking stock of the situation in light of a recent incident where a staff of High Court died due to covid as the test result was not communicated to the deceased on time and hence he could not take treatment for COVID-19.

Directions:

  • State Government must initiate appropriate action in accordance with law against all concerned who are responsible for this lapse and place on record a report on the action taken on the next date.
  • State Government shall issue a direction to all the Laboratories to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and test reports are made available within 24 hours.

Issue 2: Vaccine Allocation

About 26, 00,000 beneficiaries in the State who have taken the first dose of COVISHIELD or COVAXIN have not received the second dose though it is overdue as per the prevailing norms of the Central Government. The total stock of vaccines available in the State is only 9, 37,780 of doses. Hence, there is no possibility of majority of 26, 00,000 beneficiaries getting the second dose which is already overdue. The situation which prevails today clearly shows that if all the available 9, 37,780 doses are to be used for administering the second dose, a substantial number of beneficiaries who have taken the first dose will not get the second dose.

The Court observed that there cannot be any distinction between the words ‘due’ and ‘overdue’ when it comes to administration of the second dose. Once as per the existing timelines, the second dose is due, it is an obligation of the Governments to ensure that the second dose is provided. If the second dose is not provided, it will be a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court further observed that If those who have taken the first dose are not administered the second dose on the respective due dates, apart from violation of the fundamental rights of the said citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, if they are required to take the first dose again, it will be a huge national waste of the first dose already administered to them.

A mandatory direction to both the Governments regarding ensuring sufficient procurement of quantity of vaccine doses however was not issued in light of submission made by the Additional Solicitor General. It was stated that a decision on allocation of vaccine is likely to be taken and it was assured that the Central Government will make every endeavour to bridge the gap to ensure that no one is denied the second dose which has become due.

The sum and substance of the guidelines by the Central Government appears to be that the first priority of the State Government should be to provide vaccine to those who have taken the first dose.

“By way of an illustration, we may record here that if a person has taken the first dose of COVISHIELD more than eight weeks back, he must get priority over the person who has completed seven weeks from the date of taking the first dose of COVISHIELD. Thus, it is mandatory for the State Government to ensure that a rational and fair formula is adopted for giving second dose of vaccination.”

Directions:

  • State Government must abide by the said guidelines considering the desperate and critical situation created due to failure to administer second dose to about 20,00,000 citizens.
  • State Government shall place on record all the facts and figures (district-wise) regarding the second dose administered throughout the State

Issue 3: Food Security

The Government of India decided to allocate free of cost food grains at 5 Kgs, per person, per month to nearly 80 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) over and above NFSA Food grains for next two months i.e. May and June 2021 on the same pattern as the earlier “Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY)”. Under this Special scheme (PM-GKAY) around 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries covered under both the categories of NFSA, namely Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Householders (PHH) will be provided with an additional quota of free of cost food grains (Rice/wheat) at a scale of 5 Kgs per person, per month, over and above their regular  monthly entitlements under NFSA.

There is an issue regarding implementation of the instant scheme which is being implemented through Indira Canteens throughout the State.

 Directions:

  • It is directed to both the Governments to take a call on the issue whether the benefits of Atma Nirbhara Scheme as applicable last year can be extended to those who are not holding a ration card of any State.
  • State Government shall also identify the vulnerable sections of the society who have been affected by the partial lockdown.
  • State Government shall take a decision immediately on the issue of restoring Dasoha helpline to know who are the persons who are deprived of the benefits of the scheme of the State Government of supplying cooked food as well as well as the scheme of the Central Government.

Highlights of the Report of the Monitoring Committee of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority

There are two main issues which arise on the basis of the said report. These are as follows:

  • Compensation in Chamarajanagar District Hospital Tragedy

The Court relied on judgments Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar 1983 (4) SCC 141 and Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, AIR 1993 SC 1960 and observed “that in a public law remedy in the form of a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, Writ Court can grant compensation for violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

  • Responsibility for lapses

The Court observed that the Committee has found instances of tampering with the relevant record. The Court directed that “the record shall be retained in the custody of the Chief Secretary will continue to operate. Needless to add that either the Commissioner appointed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 or any Investigating Agency needs to look into the record, the Chief Secretary will make available the said record.”

Observations regarding Oxygen

“….it is for the State Government to immediately communicate the requirements of the State to the concerned Authority of the Central Government in view of the assurance recorded therein.”

Observations regarding Dignified Burial or Cremation

The Court observed

“….State Government permit burial of the body of a person who has died due to COVID-19 without obtaining a death certificate.””

The Court finally directed “the learned Advocate General or the learned Additional Advocate General convenes a meeting of the learned counsel appearing for the parties so that the issues regarding compliances can be discussed and a proper response is given on the next date”

[Mohammed Arif Jameel v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Kar 12301, decided on 13-05-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ. and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., took up a PIL wherein the counsel of the petitioner, Mr A. Chamuah had filed an interlocutory application stating that in Assam persons who were suffering from COVID, although they had an insurance cover were still not being admitted in private hospitals inspite of directions issued in this regard for taking care a COVID patients (who have insurance cover), vide order of the Regulatory Authority dated 04-03-2020.

Mr D. Saikia, Advocate General, Assam placed on record before the Court that on enquiry being done at their end, nine private hospitals were contacted in Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Bongaigaon and the replies which they had received from these private hospitals is that inspite of the late payment in many cases, have not denied admission to a patient suffering from covid, except in some cases where the employees of the hospital were also suffering from COVID. Enquiries have also been made regarding the old lady, who was allegedly denied treatment from cancer as she was suffering from COVID.

The Court granted one week time to Assistant Solicitor General of India, Mr R.K.D. Choudhury to get instructions from the Insurance Regulatory Authority and to file a detailed reply regarding the same so that there is a better position to examine the matter. Court to hear the matter on 31-05-2021.

[Lawyers Association, Guwahati v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1100, decided on 24-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sunil B. Shukre and Avinash G. Gharote, JJ., addressed the issue of Mucormycosis or Black Fungus disease and reluctance of public and private sector companies to abide by their corporate social responsibility. The Bench stated,

When these corporate entities are enjoined with a statutory duty (See section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013), it is expected that these companies discharge their duties whenever they are called upon to do so and in our opinion, there could have been no better opportunity than the present time and present cause to discharge such duty.

Corporate Social Responsibility

By the instant suo motu case, the Court had made an attempt to strengthen the health care system in Vidarbha Region, especially in view of Covid -19 pandemic. This Court had urged not only the State Government, but also the public sector companies and private sector companies to make their contributions to the noble cause. The Bench said that if these companies do not respond to the call, the Court would have to issue necessary directions for waking them up and answer the call of their duty. Accordingly, the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur and of Amravati were directed to obtain the information as regards the availability of CSR funds with all the companies operating in their respective divisions. The Divisional Commissioner was further directed to verify the correctness of the information so provided by these companies.

Mucormycosis Disease

Counsel for the intervener, Mr. Bhanudas Kulkarni, had highlighted the issue of black fungus or Mucormycosis disease affecting several patients post recovery from Covid-19 disease. He submitted that in last 15 days, 43 eyes had been removed and 26 deaths had occurred, all due to Mucormycosis. Also, in the last two days new 109 cases of Mucormycosis had been reported. He further pointed out that as per the IMA report that some of the relevant factors in the present case include reduction of immunity on account of weakness which develops after recovering from Covid-19 and also due to misuse of steroids. It also points out the treatment to be given to the patients while highlighting the toxicity of some of the drugs which are available for treating this disease in current situation.

Another issue before the Court was regarding high cost of drugs used to treat Mucormycosis and that very high dosage is required of the same which had made it out of reach out several patients. The Bench said that incidence of Mucormycosis has also risen alarmingly. In such a situation, it is necessary that some steps are taken by the Government for bringing down the prices of these drugs to affordable level. Accordingly, the Court urged the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority to look into the matter and issue directives reducing the prices of these drugs to affordable level.

Shortage of Drugs

Noticing the problem of short supply of the drugs used for treatment of Mucormycosis, the Bench opined that there are about 26 companies which are involved in manufacturing of the drugs used for treatment of Mucormycosis, hence it would be appropriate if the Central Government regulates the production and distribution of these drugs across India so that there may not be shortage of these drugs in future. Accordingly, request was made to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority and Central Drug Controller to issue necessary directions as regards regulation of production of the drugs, increase of production capacity and distribution of these drugs to different States of India on the basis of caseload of each of the States.

Directions of the Court

  1. Noticing that some of the drugs given to the patients to treat Mucormycosis are highly toxic and affect kidney, the Court directed the State government to issue a detailed and specific SOP for prescription and use of these drugs, preferably giving the contraindications.
  2. In Vidarbha region, the Division Commissioner, Nagpur and the Divisional Commissioner Amravati were directed to start awareness campaign to acquaint members of public with the cause, effect and preventive measures to be taken to tackle Mucormycosis or black fungus disease.
  • Noticing that IMA had already issued the guidelines to be followed to safeguard patients from post Covid-19 black fungus disease, the Bench directed the Divisional Commissioner Nagpur and the Divisional Commissioner, Amravati to give wide publicity to these guidelines in at least three languages Marathi, Hindi and English.
  1. Further, directions were issued to prepare posters of these guidelines and paste at different places and circulate the same on social media.

[Court on its own motion v. Union of India,  2021 SCC OnLine Bom 742, order dated 19-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Amicus Curiae: S.P.Bhandarkar

For Union of India: ASGI U.M.Aurangabadkar with Adv.Santok Singh Sokhi and Adv. Deshmukh
For Respondents: GP. Ketki Joshi Addl. GP D.P. Thakare and AGP N.S. Rao

For Respondent 4 and 10: Adv. S.M.Puranik and Adv. B.G.Kulkarni, respectively

For MADC:  Adv. C.S.Samundra

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of Vineet Saran and BR Gavai, JJ has stayed the Allahabad High Court’s order wherein it was held that apprehension of being infected with COVID-19 after coming into contact with authorities was a valid ground for anticipatory bail.

The High Court had granted anticipatory bail to one Prateek Jain “on account of special conditions and on special ground”. The applicant had contended that if he is arrested and subjected to the subsequent procedures of detention in lock-up, production before the Magistrate, grant or rejection of bail or incarceration in jail, etc., the apprehension to his life will certainly arise.

In such circumstances, the High Court had noticed that during the compliance of procedures provided under Cr.P.C. or any special act, an accused will definitely come in contact with number of persons. He will be arrested by police, confined in lock-up, produced before the Magistrate and if his bail application is not granted promptly, he will be sent to jail for an indefinite period till his bail is granted by the Higher Court.

“The accused may be suffering from the deadly infections of corona virus, or police personnels, who have arrested him, kept him in lock-up, produced him before the Magistrate and then took him to jail may also be infected persons. Even in jail large number of inmates have been found to be infected. There is no proper testing, treatment and care of the persons confined in jails.”

Challenging the said order before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the larger issue was involved in the matter, as various directions have been issued by the High Court with regard to grant of bail in the present Covid situation.

The Court, hence, directed,

“Keeping in view the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct that as far as the general observations and directions in the impugned order are concerned, the same shall remain stayed and the Courts shall not consider the said directions while considering other application for anticipatory bail, which shall be decided on the merit of each case, and not on the basis of observations made in the impugned order.”

Court also appointed Senior Advocate V. Giri as an amicus curiae in the matter.

Warning the respondent Prateek Jain, the Court said that if he fails to appear on the next date of hearing, it shall be considered to be a good ground for cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to him by the High Court.

Read the detailed directions issued by the Allahabad High Court here:

All HC| “Right to life of an accused person can not be put to peril”; Apprehension of being infected with COVID-19 after coming into contact with authorities a valid ground for anticipatory bail

[State of Uttar Pradesh v. Prateek Jain, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 400, order dated 25.05.2021]


Appearances before the Court:

Mr. Tushar Mehta, SG

Ms. Garima Prashad, AAG

Mr. Sarvesh Singh Baghel, AOR

Mr. Abhinav Agrawal, Adv

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh, JJ., disposed of the petition which was filed in order to decide the constitutionality of imposition of IGST on the imported oxygen concentrators. The Court in its prologue said,

“This is a George Floyd moment for the citizens of this country. The refrain is ―I can’t breathe‖, albeit, in a somewhat different context and setting; although in circumstances, some would say, vastly more horrifying and ghastlier. Chased and riven by the merciless novel Coronavirus, the citizenry has been driven to desperation and despair.”

The petitioner was 85 years old and had approached the Court against the imposition of IGST on the import of the oxygen concentrator which had been gifted to him by his nephew. The petitioner asserted that the imposition of tax was discriminatory, unfair, and unreasonable and that it impinges upon his right to life and health. The clearance of the oxygen concentrator from the customs barrier required payment of IGST at the rate of 12%. It is relevant to note that before 01-05-2021, an individual importer would have had to pay IGST at the rate of 28% qua oxygen concentrator gifted to him for personal use.

The State had issued an impugned notification dated 01-05-2021 whereby IGST on oxygen concentrators imported by individuals for personal use, that are supplied free of cost, was scaled down to 12% and it further issued a notification dated 03-05-2021 whereby it exempted, completely, oxygen concentrators imported for the purpose of COVID relief from the imposition of IGST in cases, where the importer was the ―State Government or, any entity, relief agency or statutory body, authorised in this regard by any State Government” till 30-06-2021.

Major submissions made on behalf of the Amicus and the petitioner: –

  1. The interplay of provisions of The Customs Act, 1962 [Customs Act],The Customs Tariff Act, 1975 [CTA], The Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017[GST Act], and The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017[IGST Act] allows for the imposition of Basic Customs Duty [in short ―BCD‖] and IGST on goods imported into the country at the rates stipulated in the CTA.
  2. The source of power to levy and collect IGST on imports is rooted in the explanation appended to Article 269A (1) of the Constitution.
  3. With the enactment of the GST Act, it is now possible to levy simultaneously both Central GST as well as State GST. Excluding 6 items, Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 [CST Act] stands substituted by the IGST Act. Article 246A(2) gives Parliament the exclusive power to levy GST on the supply of goods and services that takes place in the course of inter-state trade and commerce.
  4. Section 3(7) of the CTA which allows for levy of IGST on imported goods pegs the ceiling rate at 40%. The provision for valuation is provided under Section 3(8) and 3(8A) of the CTA. Section 3(12) contains the power for exempting, inter alia, the levy of IGST.
  5. Thus, in effect, from 01.07.2017, BCD is levied on imported goods under the Customs Act and IGST is leviable under Section 3(7) of the CTA read with Section 5 of the IGST Act.
  6. A perusal of the Mega Exemption Notification no. 50/2017, dated 30.06.2017, (which superseded notification 12/2012 dated 17.03.2012) [General Exemption no. 190‖] would show that qua several items where BCD is exempt or reduced, the IGST is nil. This has been a longstanding practice even prior to the issuance of Mega Exemption Notification.
  7. In the notification issued by Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry [in short ―DGFT‖], whereby oxygen concentrators were exempted from customs duty/BCD, IGST, via a separate notification, i.e., notification no. 30 of 2021 dated 01-05-2021 was reduced from 28% to 12% qua imports made for personal use. An exception was, however, made insofar as oxygen concentrators imported by a canalising agency was concerned. In such cases, vide notification no. 4 of 2021 dated 03-05-2021, complete exemption from IGST was granted, albeit, subject to certain conditions.
  8. Furthermore, a perusal of entry no. 607A1 of General Exemption no. 190 would show that complete exemption from BCD and IGST is granted for life-saving drugs/medicines imported for personal use which are supplied free of cost by overseas supplier.
  9. Oxygen concentrators would fall within the ambit of Entry no. 607A, Tariff Item no. 9804 of the General Exemption no. 190, as the definition of drugs as provided in Section 3(b) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 [in short ―Drugs and Cosmetics Act‖] would include medical equipment used for treating and preventing human disease. Furthermore, since an oxygen concentrator is, undoubtedly, a piece of life-saving equipment, it should not be subjected to the rigour of certification by officials, named in condition no. 104 stipulated against entry no. 607A.
  10. The impugned notification violates not only the right to health but also the right to human dignity which is interwoven in Article 21 of the Constitution.

Major submissions advanced on behalf of the State: –

  1. Since GST rates and general exemptions are notified based on the recommendations of the GST Council, the request received by the Government of India for extending GST exemptions qua COVID-19 related supplies shall be placed before the GST Council. The GST Council will consider the same and take steps having regard to the relevant factors and the situation prevalent in the country.
  2. The Government of India has provided considerable relief insofar as oxygen concentrators imported for personal use are concerned- BCD hasbeen reduced from 38.5% to nil while IGST has been scaled down from 28% to 12%. The reduction in the rate of IGST from 28% to 12% has been brought about for bringing about parity between oxygen concentrators imported for commercial purpose as against those imported for personal use.
  3. The decision to impose a tax and/or the fixation of the rate at which tax is to be imposed cannot be subjected to judicial review.
  4. The imposition of IGST on imported oxygen concentrators, which are gifted, and are for personal use, does not violate Article 21 of the Constitution. If this argument of the petitioner is accepted, it will lead to absurd consequences in as much citizens will attempt to seek exemption from property tax, and food items since both housing and food items have been considered as a facet of the right to life as encapsulated in Article 21 of the Constitution.

Analysis and Decision

The Court laid down some immutable ground rules to examine challenge laid to tax legislations and levying of tax in extraordinary times and formed main issues to be dealt with.

  1. Whether the State’s action, of imposing IGST on oxygen concentrators, which were directly imported by individuals, albeit free of cost, without the aid of a canalising agency runs afoul of Article 14 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether Article 21 of the Constitution, which includes the right to health and affordable treatment, would require the State to demonstrate that levy and collection of the impugned tax in times of pandemic, war, famine, floods, and such like conditions would subserve public interest?
  • Whether Article 21 of the Constitution, imposes on the State, a positive obligation to provide adequate resources for protecting and preserving the health and well-being of persons residing within its jurisdiction?
  1. What relief, if any, can be granted to the petitioner?

Issue 1

The Court found, The exclusion of individuals, such as the petitioner, from the benefits of the 03.05.2021 notification only because they chose to receive the oxygen concentrators as a gift, albeit directly, without going through a canalizing agency is, in our opinion, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. While it is permissible for the State to identify a class of persons, to whom tax exemption would be extended, it is not permissible for the State to exclude a set of persons who would ordinarily fall within the exempted class by creating an artificial, unreasonable, and substantially unsustainable distinction.

Issue 2 &3

Exaction by the State, in the form of tax, in good and normal times, is, ordinarily, sustained by the Courts as they defer to the legislative wisdom that the imposition of the tax is for the greater good of the public; unless proved to the contrary. However, in times of peril, the Courts must examine the stand taken by the State to defend an action instituted to lay challenge to a tax – on anvil of Article 21 of the Constitution; as it is not the form but the impact of the tax which will determine its tenability. The Court said that in this context it must be said that there was a positive obligation on the State to take ameliorative measures so that adequate resources are available to protect and preserve the health of persons residing within its jurisdiction. The Court quoted from the Supreme Court verdict in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1,

“―495. The jurisprudence of this Court, in recognising the right to health and access to medical care, demonstrates the crucial distinction between negative and positive obligations. Article 21 does not impose upon the State only negative obligations not to act in such a way as to interfere with the right to health. This Court also has the power to impose positive obligations upon the State to take measures to provide adequate resources or access to treatment facilities to secure effective enjoyment of the right to health. [ Jayna Kothari, ―Social Rights and the Indian Constitution‖, Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal (2004).]‖”

In the same vein, the notification dated 03-05-2021 exempts imposition of IGST on oxygen concentrators which are imported free of cost, albeit, via canalizing agency up until 30-06-2021. The State could have, if it intended to treat, persons who are similarly circumstanced as the petitioner, at par with those who fall within the sway of the notification dated 03-05-2021- extended the exemption to them as well and withdrawn the same once normalcy was restored.

Issue 4

The Court opined that a declaratory relief can be accorded, to the effect, that imposition of IGST on oxygen concentrators, imported as gifts, i.e., free of cost, for personal use, is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground that an artificial, unfair and unreasonable distinction has been drawn between persons, who are similarly circumstanced as the petitioner and those who import oxygen concentrators through a canalizing agency.

The logical sequitur of this would be that persons who are similarly circumstanced as the petitioner, i.e., those who obtain imported oxygen concentrators as gifts, for personal use, cannot also be equated with those who import oxygen concentrators for commercial use. Therefore, notification bearing no. 30 of 2021-Customs, dated 01-05-2021, will also have to be quashed.

The State had argued that the Court cannot issue a writ of mandamus directing the State to issue an exemption notification in favour of the petitioner or persons similarly circumstanced. The power to issue an exemption notification under Section 25 of the Customs Act is vested in the State however the Court was not prevented from judicially reviewing an exemption notification once it is issued by the State.

The Court concluded that imposition of IGST on oxygen concentrators which were imported by individuals and were received by them as gifts [i.e. free of cost] for personal use, was unconstitutional.

[Gurcharan Singh v. Ministry of Finance, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 2312 , decided on 21-05-2021]


 

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

For the petitioner: Mr Sudhir Nandrajog, Senior Advocate with Mr Siddharth Bambha, Mr Shyam D Nandan and Mr Chirag Ahluwalia

For the respondent: Mr Zoheb Hossain, Sr. Standing Counsel, Mr Arvind Datar, Senior Advocate as Amicus Curiae with Mr Rahul Unnikrishnan

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The bench of Mohammad Rafiq, CJ and Atul Sreedharan, J has issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh Government after a PIL was filed before the High Court seeking direction to the Madhya Pradesh Government to initiate the exercise of inviting global tender for the procurement of fixed lot of vaccines for immunizing the entire lot of its residents through a State-level immunization programme.

While it was submitted before the Court that the that the Central Government has adopted a policy according to which it can issue licence in favour of local manufacturers within the State of Madhya Pradesh for manufacturing the vaccine namely Covaxin, the Court listed the matter for further hearing on May 24, 2021.

The petition filed by Sunil Gupta, an elected Member of the State Bar Council, Madhya Pradesh, highlighted that already, a number of States have initiated steps in this regard and have either already floated global tender for the said process or are in the process of issuing one.

It further submits that if the State takes over the responsibility of inviting a global tender and undertakes to procure the entire lot for its unvaccinated (around 85%) population, then the said exercise would be completed within a period of 3-4 months conveniently without much of involvement of the private sector, eliminating the possibilities of the poor or the have-not section of the society been deprived of timely vaccination owing to lack of financial resources with him.

Read all about the petition here: 

‘Step into the shoes of a parent for your citizens and invite global tender for procurement of COVID-19 vaccines’. Read what the PIL in Madhya Pradesh High Court states

[SUNIL GUPTA v. THE STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH, WP-9487-2021, order dated 19.05.2021]


Appearances before the Court by:

For Petitioner: Advocate Siddharth Gupta

For Respondents: Advocate General Purushaindra Kaurav, Assistant Solicitor General J. K. Jain and Advocate Vikram Singh

Hot Off The PressNews

Madhya Pradesh High Court: As the nation is crippled with rising COVID-19 cases and shortage of vaccines, an important PIL has been filed before the High Court seeking direction to the Madhya Pradesh Government to initiate the exercise of inviting global tender for the procurement of fixed lot of vaccines for immunizing the entire lot of its residents through a State-level immunization programme.

The petition filed by Sunil Gupta, an elected Member of the State Bar Council, Madhya Pradesh, highlighted that already, a number of States have initiated steps in this regard and have either already floated global tender for the said process or are in the process of issuing one.

In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the population which is required to be vaccinated of the 18+ category is roughly about 5.49 crores.

Here’s the breakdown the statistics:

Total population in Madhya Pradesh 8,40,40,000

 

Total vaccinated population

(as on 13th May, 2021)

90,33,231
Total people vaccinated in the 18-45 age group

(as on 13th May, 2021)

8,08,762
Percentage of population vaccinated in M.P

(as on 13th May, 2021)

10.74%

Apart from various problems that are arising to ensure vaccination, the petition also highlights the issue of profiteering by the private hospitals and

medical practitioners, with private hospitals charging Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000 per dose per person.The bigger the brand, the higher the rate of the very same dose of vaccine inoculated to the same category of patient by the private service providers.

“Where on one hand, the State Government is not able to ensure speedier and widespread vaccination due to availability of doses, on the other hand, private entities across the country are able to squeeze a lion’s share in the pie by getting the doses and vaccinating the people at much higher rates than that on which the Central Government is procuring, i.e., at the rate of Rs. 150 per dose per person.”

The petition argues that if the State purchases a bulk lot of vaccines by placing a direct purchase order without any interference by the Central Government through a direct tender process, as has been done with many other categories of drugs in normal course, then the problem shall be resolved.

The Global Tender floated by the Uttar Pradesh Medical Supplies Corporation limited for procurement of vaccines for Covid-19 also finds mention in the petition and is termed as “a role model in itself to be emulated and adopted by all the States of the country.”

Under the Uttar Pradesh’s Global Tender, the time period within which the entire contracted dose of vaccine is to be supplied by the concerned successful bidder to the State (which is two to three months period). Thereafter the entire lot of vaccine is in control and ownership of the State Government, which thereafter fixes the cap at which the concerned vaccination dose is to be sold on the field by the concerned authorized sellers. Thus, the State essentially becomes the “umbrella authority” in control and regulation of the entire lot of vaccines deciding how to get the citizens inoculated timely and without administrative delay and day to day bottlenecks.

States of Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi have taken the in-principle decision of floating Global e-tenders for purchase of vaccines towards ramping up the process of immunization drive at the State level.

Therefore, to ensure availability of a fixed confirmed cartel of vaccine with the State government for implementing a time bound immunization program in the State, it is necessary that some concrete steps must be taken.

The petitioner submits that inviting vaccines at a global level from international players will also evoke interest by the international companies for orienting their resources towards supplying their developed drugs in India (after statutory approvals) and also meet the acute shortage and availability issues of the vaccines being faced by various States including the State of Madhya Pradesh.

It is further submitted that involving multiple players in the field will also enable the State Governments to go for the best choice as also negotiate and develop bargaining power with the international players as also domestic companies for the supply of vaccines for immunizing its residents.

On the issue of price fixation, the petition states that the State must not only float the tender and call for the vaccine, but must also ensure that the vaccines are administered to each and every citizen at the fixed capped price both by the private as well as government players on which the State is undertaking procurement. This will eliminate any prospects of profiteering, hoarding and black marketing of the vaccine, procured through the Global e-tender by the State government.

If the State takes over the responsibility of inviting a global tender and undertakes to procure the entire lot for its unvaccinated (around 85%) population, then the said exercise would be completed within a period of 3-4 months conveniently without much of involvement of the private sector, eliminating the possibilities of the poor or the have-not section of the society been deprived of timely vaccination owing to lack of financial resources with him.

“Immunization at the State level is a concept which is not new and is being undertaken with respect to multiple other ailments like tuberculosis, polio, measles, etc diseases which have been a cause of pandemic in the past. Therefore, the State can very well step into the shoes of a parent for its citizens and undertake the said exercise of undertaking global tender for the procurement of vaccines in one go.”


Petitioner’s counsel: Advocate Siddharth R. Gupta 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Parth Prateem Sahu JJ. laid down allotment of vaccines in percentage to the ‘Antyodaya Group’, the persons belonging to the ‘Below Poverty Line’ and the persons belonging to the ‘Above Poverty Line’.

The present issue has come up before the Court regarding that the vaccine allotted to a particular category like Front Line Worker or Antyodaya or BPL (Below Poverty Line) remained unused in a particular vaccination center at the end of the day and the previous orders under the same PIL no. does not provide as to how the unused vaccines would be redistributed on the following day or any other day. Also the vaccine quantity allocated to Antyodaya category persons remains unused and at the same time persons belonging to other category and willing to be vaccinated returned without being vaccinated at the end of the day.

The vaccination programme is going on by distributing the following quota of vaccines to the eligible categories:

No. Category Percentage of Vaccine Allocation
1. Frontline Workers 20% of the total vaccine doses available
2. Antyodaya Ration Card 15% of the remaining 80% vaccine doses available or 12% of the total vaccine doses available
3. BPL (Below Poverty Line) 65% of the remaining 80% vaccine doses available or 52% of the total vaccine doses available
4. APL (Above Poverty Line) 20% of the remaining 80% vaccine doses available or 16% of the total vaccine doses available

It was submitted that non-utilisation of vaccines is, in fact, delaying the whole vaccination programme for the persons who are willing to be vaccinated, but they could not get the vaccination because the quantity allocated to their category is exhausted on a given date.

State submitted that the unused vaccines for any particular category are redistributed. The Court further listed the matter for 19-05-2021 for consideration regarding non-utilisation of Antyodaya or any other category vaccines at the end of a particular day and an affidavit to this effect shall be filed.

[Suo Moto WP (PIL) v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 1110, decided on 17-05-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Amicus Curiae: Mr. Prafull N Bharat

Advocate for the State: Mr. Satish Chandra Verma, Mr. V Giri, Mr. Vivek Ranjan Tiwari, Mr. Chandresh Shrivastava, and Mr. Vikram Sharma

Advocate for UOI : Mr. Ramakant Mishra,

Advocate for Railways: Mr. Abhishek Sinha,

Advocate for SLSA: Mr. Ashish Shrivastava

Advocates for the respective Interveners:, Mr.  Sandeep Dubey, Mr.  Palash Tiwari, Mr. Sudeip Shrivastava, Mr. A. V. Sridhar, Mr. Anumeh Shrivastava, Mr.  Himanshu Choubey, Intervenor in Person.

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: The Division Bench of Akil Kureshi, CJ. and S. Talapatra, J., perused the latest affidavit filed by the State dated 16-05-2021 in which had several details particularly concerning the preparedness of the State-administration to deal with emerging Covid related situation.

The affidavit contained availability of Covid beds in different hospitals with continuous oxygen supply and other support systems. It was stated that in addition to the existing hospital beds with pipelined oxygen supply, 150 hospital beds which currently have oxygen cylinders as well as oxygen concentrators, shall be covered with oxygen supply through pipeline within a period of two weeks from today. State assured that this quantity was more than sufficient to cover not only the current requirement but any possible foreseeable future requirements. The affidavit further provided details of the vaccination progress in the State giving category-wise such as, coverage of first and second doses to healthcare workers, frontline workers, citizens over 60 years, those in the age group of 45 to 59 years etc.

The Court noted the details provided by the State administration and brought the attention of the administration towards two main aspects which required immediate action which were the high infection cases in State-run orphanages and jails. The Court requested the administration to ensure maximum possible testing of these children, further in the case of jail inmates the State which has restricted the movement of a citizen, of course by authority of law, has the onus to ensure that his health is not jeopardized on account of being kept confined. The Court further brought notice of the State-administration towards the requirement of round the clock helpline which is efficient, functional and provides all necessary information and support to the relatives of the patients who are in need.

The Court listed the matter on 24-05-2021 with a devised plan in relation to abovementioned concerns.

[Court on its own motion, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 275, decided on 17-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

For Respondent(s): Mr S S Dey, Advocate General, Mr Debalaya Bhattacharya, Govt. Advocate, Ms Ayantika Chakrabroty, Advocate.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Taking into consideration the reason of urgency i.e., acute surge in Covid-19 pandemic from which people are suffering and dire need of Oxygen, the Division Bench of Ravi Ranjan, C.J., and Sujit Narayan Prasad, J., directed to release Oxygen cylinders which were lying in judicial custody in connection with various cases.

The AG, Mr. Rajiv Ranjan, had preferred this interlocutory application in which urgency had been shown for passing appropriate order for utilization of Oxygen cylinders which are lying in judicial custody in different districts in connection with various cases for the purpose of using those Oxygen cylinders to the persons who are suffering from Covid-19 pandemic and who are in need of Oxygen. The AG had urged that such Oxygen cylinders may be directed to be released in favour of concerned District Health Committee and once the situation will be normalized or there will no need of such Oxygen cylinders, the same will be returned to the concerned police station.

Opining that Oxygen cylinders are of prime importance in saving life of persons suffering from Covid-19 pandemic and that number of such Oxygen cylinders are lying in judicial custody in connection with various cases and if it would be released after imposing appropriate condition, no prejudice would be caused to the parties to the lis rather it will be more beneficial for the people at large, who are suffering from Covid-19 pandemic and further the State Government will be in better position in facilitating the treatment of persons who are suffering from Covid-19 pandemic and are in dire need of Oxygen, the Bench ordered to release the Oxygen cylinder(s) without prejudicing the right of the parties on following conditions:

  1. The District Health Committee of concerned district shall furnish an affidavit with an undertaking before the concerned court for release of such Oxygen cylinder(s).
  2. The undertaking shall contain all details of cylinder viz. quantity of oxygen or its weight etc. and further with specific undertaking that such cylinder would be returned within a period of three months or even earlier if it will be required by the Court.
  3. The Courts, where cases are pending shall pass necessary order by recording such undertaking furnished by the District Health Committee.
  4. The District Health Committee was further directed to ensure identification of such cylinders before release and further secure return of such Cylinder on “as is where is” basis.

Further, it was also directed that the Deputy Commissioner-cum of the District Health Committee concerned shall with consultation of Civil Surgeon of the respective district ensure efficacy of such cylinder(s) and only after testing its perfection it may be used in order to avoid any casualty.

Additionally, taking note of media report regarding precarious condition of Sadar Hospital and death of five patients there due to interruption in supply of Oxygen, the Bench stated,

It is very unfortunate that in the Sadar Hospital at Ranchi, as reported that five patients, who were suffering from Covid-19, have died due to interruption in supply of oxygen

Accordingly, the State was directed to conduct a detailed enquiry on the issue and fix accountability upon the erring person(s) and submit its report. Further, the AG was directed to apprise the Court by filing affidavit with respect to the arrangement made in the Sadar Hospitals of each and every district of the State as also the arrangement made at Medical College, Dhanbad, containing therein the details of beds supported with Oxygen, number of the doctors and para-medical staffs as also the position of oxygen in the said hospitals.

[Suo Motu v. State of Jharkhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Jhar 368, order dated 08-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Rajendra Krishna, Advocate

For the State: Rajiv Ranjan, AG and Sachin Kumar, AAG-II

For the U.O.I.: Rajiv Sinha, A.S.G.I.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ., and G. S. Kulkarni, J. had addressed a suo motu case on the issue of alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in prisons of the State of Maharashtra.

By an earlier order, the Bench had passed several directions to de-congest the correctional homes and to compel adherence to maintenance of COVID-19 protocol in such homes to ensure safety and well-being of the correctional home inmates as well as the staff.

Pursuant to the said order, a report had been submitted by the State asserting that sanitizers had been made available as well as appropriate briefing is given to the authorities for maintaining COVID-19 protocol inside the correctional homes. Additionally, only those staff, who are vaccinated, are being assigned duties and to interact with the inmates. The State had assured that urgent steps would be taken to ensure that the entire prison staff is vaccinated at the earliest.

Another major issue before the Court was, the particulars of medical officers as well as paramedical staff posted in the various central prisons and district prisons present a very dismal picture. In case of both medical officers and para-medical staff, nearly 1/3rd of the vacancies remain unfilled. That though Medical Officers belonging to Classes I, II and III are shown to have been posted at various correctional homes but the principle behind such posting had not been indicated in the brief note submitted by the state. Similarly, the Yerwada Central Prison was found not to have the service of a single Medical Officer Class I. The Bench asked the state how it proposes to deal with the problem of dearth of medical officers and para-medical staff at the various correctional homes. The state was directed to at least make efforts to fill up all the sanctioned posts and ensure zero vacancy qua such posts. The Bench said any omission or failure to deal with the concern at hand by the State in the near future may not be viewed lightly.

While noting the progress made in achieving compliance, the Bench further issued further directions:

  1. The authorities to whom the guidelines/ recommendations are issued by the High Power Committee in furtherance of the avowed object of reducing the problem of overcrowding in the correctional homes shall follow the same in letter and spirit.
  2. The second direction was with regard to devising ways and means to regulate the entry of staff in the correctional homes, since it was apprehended that such staff were the carriers of the virus and contributed to its spread among the inmates.
  3. It is revealed that pulse oximeter reading, temperature reading as well as tests for symptoms common to the infection in issue are required to be undergone by each staff. Such staff also has to wear appropriate masks, properly.
  4. The shall, as far as practicable, have all the prison staff vaccinated as early as possible.
  5. State shall not compel an inmate to obtain release either on interim bail or emergency parole, without his free will/volition.
  6. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on COVID-19 ~ Vaccination of Persons without Prescribed Identity Cards through CoWIN portal which stipulates that if a group of people is found not to have any of the 7 specified identity cards required for vaccination, such group of people may be registered on the CoWIN portal and further steps accordance with the SOP for vaccination. Accordingly, directions were issued to the State as well as the prison authorities not to insist on production of Aadhar Cards by correctional home inmates and to proceed for vaccination of those inmates, not having the specified identity cards, in the manner as laid down in the SOP without any delay.
  7. To ensure that the statutory mandate of the Maharashtra Prison (Prison Hospital) Rules, 2015 framed under the provisions of the Prison Act, 1894 are complied with as early as possible; also, if there be dearth of medical officers, a policy of rotation could be formulated and pressed into service.
  8. Noticing the news report regarding water shortage in Taloja correctional home, the Bench directed the authorities to take immediate steps to restore the water supply.

Lastly, observing the rising number of Covid positive inmates and jail staff, the Bench opined that much is required at the end of the prison authorities to arrest the spread of the pandemic in the correctional homes. Hence, the Court asked the state to take appropriate steps within the limits of its capacity.

[Suo Motu v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 715, order dated 12-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsel for the State: Deepak Thakare and Akshay Shinde

Counsel for People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Intervenor): Mihir Desai with Vijay Hiremath, Devyani Kulkarni and Mihir Joshi

For Centre for Criminology and Justice (TISS): Professor Vijay Raghavan

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjay Karol, CJ., and Shivaji Pandey, J., addressed the issue of spiraling rise in Covid-19 cases in the state.

The Bench, while resisting to pass any further order stated that the State of Bihar should give the required details on each and every aspect of the matter, such as, availability of medicines, black-marketing and also availability of oxygen gas cylinders in the rural areas, especially the district hospitals because the migrants are coming and there is a chance that the person in the rural area may get infected.

The Bench directed, the State should ensure that the medicines as well as all infrastructures are made available at the district level also. The State must also ensure early vaccination of the age group 18 to 45 years, as it is large chunk of the population and reportedly, the death rate of that class is very high.

[Shivani Kaushik v. Union of India, Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 353 of 2021, order dated 07-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner/s: Shivani Kaushik (In Person)

For the UOI: Dr K.N. Singh (ASG)

For the State: Anjani Kumar, AAG-4

For the Respondent 5: Mrs Binita Singh

For Respondent 6: Shivender Kishore,

For PMC: Prasoon Sinha

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Observing that the situation about the supply of oxygen at the Goa Medical College is quite grim, the Division Bench of M.S. Sonak and Nitin W. Sambre, JJ. expressed that,

We have long passed the stage of determining whether patients are suffering from the lack of oxygen or not. The material placed before us establishes that patients are indeed suffering and even in some cases succumbing for want of the supply of oxygen, in the State of Goa.

Opining that the affidavit filed by Dr. Shivanand Bandekar, Medical Superintendent and the Dean of Goa Medical College would deserve greater credence than the affidavit filed by the Under Secretary (Health) since the Dean is monitoring the patients on day to day basis, the Bench taken noted of the said affidavit regarding details relating to deficit of oxygen supply. The affidavit revealed that, “hospitals were facing many interruptions in the supply of central oxygen on daily basis, leading to near critical fall in the oxygen saturations of patients en mass in the intensive care units. That though there is no problem with the availability and supply of Liquid Medical Oxygen, which is stored in the tank of 20,000 litres at the Super Specialty Block, this LMO cannot be directly used for the main GMC building, which is relying on the supply of oxygen via cylinders which are brought on trolleys and as loose cylinders there has been a problem with the supply of these trolleys and loose cylinders as a result of which there have been instances of a drop in supply of oxygen to the patients, which has resulted in casualties.

Noticing the abovementioned, the Bench said that the State Administration have to make further efforts, in addition to the efforts which they have already been making to ensure that Goa Medical College is supplied with the required amount of oxygen. The Bench emphasized, this is vital because the right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

There is, therefore, a corresponding duty cast on the State to ensure that this life is not extinguished on account of inability on the part of the State to supply oxygen to these unfortunate victims of the pandemic.

The duty of state can neither be avoided by pleading helplessness nor by putting forth logistical difficulties in sourcing and supplying oxygen. Such logistical problems must be got over at the earliest so that this tragedy of victims gasping for breath in the presence of their near and dear ones and in several cases even dying for want of necessary oxygen supply is arrested at the earliest. Therefore, the Bench directed the State to take all necessary steps to ensure that such logistical difficulties are overcome at the earliest and there are no casualties for want of a supply of oxygen to the pandemic victims.

Additionally, on the request of state the Bench waived the requirement of Covid negative certificate for entering in Goa to two drivers and one helper per goods vehicle making essential supplies of oxygen, medical drugs and equipments, milk, vegetables, food grains, etc. until further orders. However, the Bench made it clear that at each of the borders thermal scan of such persons would be necessary and if they display the symptoms, then, the police authorities or the other authorities should deny access to such persons within the State of Goa. The Bench clarified,

This limited waiver is not to be construed as a general license for permitting any persons to enter into the State of Goa, without having the Covid negative certificate.

The statistics suggest that the positivity rate in Goa is still high. The medical infrastructure is severely overstretched. The Doctors and nurses and the paramedical staff at the forefront of this fight against the epidemic are exhausted. Therefore all concerned must realize that there is no unnecessary insistence of waiver in the name of protecting the interests of the economy. Therefore, the waivers allowed were directed not to be misused by anyone to avoid further spread of the virus. The Bench expressed,

 No doubt, the importance of the economy can never be undermined, but at this stage at least, the priority and emphasis shall have to be on issues of health and survival. Ultimately, the economy is for the people and not the other way round.

Once the position improves, obviously the focus can and perhaps will have to shift on the economy. Accordingly the State administration was directed to focus maximum on improving the position of oxygen supply in the State and in particular at the GMC as the statistics indicate alarming number of deaths taking place in the State of Goa practically every day. Hence, this issue has to be given priority over other issues.

[Roshan Mathias V. State of Goa,2021 SCC OnLine Bom 708, order dated 12-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsels for the Petitioners: Nigel Da Costa Frias with Vishal Sawant and G. Malik

Counsels for the State: AG D.J. Pangam  with AAG Deep Shirodkar

For Scoop Industries Pvt. Ltd.: V. Rodrigues,

For Principal Secretary (Finance), State of Goa: Mr. Puneet Kumar Goel

For Secretary (Health), State of Goa: Mr. Ravi Dhawan,

Dr. Tariq Thomas, Secretary, Urban Development, State of Goa.

Dr. Shivanand Bandekar, Dean, Goa Medical College, Bambolim.

Dr. Viraj Khandeparkar, Nodal Officer, Goa Medical College,

Bambolim.

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: When one Prateek Jain approached the High Court seeking anticipatory bail on the apprehension of death due to COVID-19 virus, Siddharth, J has granted anticipatory bail “on account of special conditions and on special ground”.

“… the apprehension of an accused being infected with novel corona virus before and after his arrest and the possibilty of his spreading the same while coming into contact with the police, Court and jail personnels or vice-versa can be considered to be a valid ground for grant of anticipatory bail to an accused.”

The applicant had contended that if he is arrested and subjected to the subsequent procedures of detention in lock-up, production before the Magistrate, grant or rejection of bail or incarceration in jail, etc., the apprehension to his life will certainly arise.

In such circumstances, the Court noticed that during the compliance of procedures provided under Cr.P.C. or any special act, an accused will definitely come in contact with number of persons. He will be arrested by police, confined in lock-up, produced before the Magistrate and if his bail application is not granted promptly, he will be sent to jail for an indefinite period till his bail is granted by the Higher Court.

“The accused may be suffering from the deadly infections of corona virus, or police personnels, who have arrested him, kept him in lock-up, produced him before the Magistrate and then took him to jail may also be infected persons. Even in jail large number of inmates have been found to be infected. There is no proper testing, treatment and care of the persons confined in jails.”

The Court also took note of Supreme Court’s order on limiting the arrests and releasing prisoners to decongest the overcrowded prisons and said that in case this Court, ignoring the same, passes order which will result in overcrowding of jails again it would be quite paradoxical.

“The right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is paramount and by mere implication in a case of alleged commission of non-bailable offence, right to life of an accused person can not be put to peril.”

The Court said that the allegations may be serious against an accused but the presumption of innocence in his favour cannot be dispelled only on the basis of the allegation. An accused who has not been subjeced to trial and not even police investigation has been completed against him in many cases, cannot be compelled to surrender and obtain regular bail in the current circumstances.

Even in cases where the police report has been submitted under Section 173(2) Cr.P.C., and summons/ warrants have been issued against him, such an accused is also required to be protected till the threat of novel corona virus to his life is minimized or eradicated and normal functioning of the Courts are restored.

Hence, keeping in view the inadequate medical facilities for treating the large number of persons getting infected day by day, common accused cannot be left unprotected from the threat to his life on account of his arrest by police or surrender before the Court as per the normal procedure applicable to accused persons in normal times.

The Court went on to say that,

“The established parameters for grant of anticipatory bail like the nature and gravity of accusation, the criminal antecedent of the applicant, the possibility of fleeing from justice and whether accusation has been made for injuring and humiliating the applicant by getting him arrested have now lost significance on account of present situation of the country and the State on account of spread of second wave of novel corona virus.”

The Court noticed that while the informant/ complainant may take objection to the relief being granted to the applicant and may be dissatisfied from the observations made in this judgment in favour of accused, they should not lose sight of the fact that only when the accused would be alive he would be subjected to the normal procedure of law of arrest, bail and trial.

“… now the situation has arisen which calls for protection of an accused from infection of novel corona virus and death till the police investigation and, if required, trial is concluded against him. This Court is only granting limited protection to the applicant in view of the mandate of Articles 14 and 21 of the constitution of India. The only remedy available to the person who is implicated for commission of non-bailable offence, against his arrest, is to resort to the remedy of anticipatory bail and it can be granted to an accused on the consideration that the situation at present is not conducive to his subjection to normal procedure of arrest and bail provided under the Criminal Procedure Code.”

The Court, hence, allowed, anticipatory bail to the accused for the limited period, till 03 of January, 2022 on the following conditions:-

  1. The applicant shall, at the time of execution of the bond, furnish his address and mobile number and shall not change the residence till the conclusion of investigation/ trial without informing the Investigating Officer of the police/ the Court concerned of change of address and the reasons for the same before changing the same.
  2. The applicant shall not leave the country during the currency of trial/investigation by police without prior permission from the concerned trial Court.
  3. The applicant shall not obstruct or hamper the police investigation and not play mischeif with the evidence collected or yet to be collected by the Investigating Officer of the police;
  4. The applicant shall surrender his passport, if any, to the concerned Court/Investigating Officer forthwith. His passport will remain in custody of the concerned Court/ Investigating Officer till the investigation is completed. In case he has no passport, he will file his affidavit before the Court/ Investigating Officer concerned in this regard.
  5. That the applicant shall not, directly or indirectly, make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade his from disclosing such facts to the Court or to any police officer;
  6. The applicant shall maintain law and order.
  7. The applicant shall file an undertaking to the effect that he shall not seek any adjournment before the trial court on the dates fixed for evidence and when the witnesses are present in court. In case of default of this condition, it shall be open for the trial court to treat it as abuse of liberty of bail and pass orders in accordance with law to ensure presence of the applicant.
  8. In case, the applicant misuses the liberty of bail, the Court concerned may take appropriate action in accordance with law and judgment of Apex Court in the case of Sushila Aggarwal vs. State (NCT of Delhi)- 2020 SCC Online SC 98 and the Government Advocate/informant/complainant can file bail cancellation application.
  9. The applicant shall remain present, in person, before the trial court on the dates fixed for (i) opening of the case, (ii) framing of charge and (iii) recording of statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. If in the opinion of the trial court, default of this condition is deliberate or without sufficient cause, then it shall be open for the trial court to treat such default as abuse of liberty of her bail and proceed against him in accordance with law.
  10. The party shall file computer generated copy of such order downloaded from the official website of High Court Allahabad.
  11. The concerned Court/Authority/Official shall verify the authenticity of such computerized copy of the order from the official website of High Court Allahabad and shall make a declaration of such verification in writing.
  12. The applicant is warned not to get himself implicated in any crime and should keep distance from the informant and not to misuse the liberty granted hereby. Any misuse of liberty granted by this Court would be viewed seriously against the applicant in further proceedings.

[Prateek Jain v. State of UP, 2021 SCC OnLine All 303, order dated 10.05.2021]

Counsel for Applicant :- Avnish Kumar Srivastava,Priyanka Sharma

Counsel for Opposite Party :- G.A.,Vidya Prakash Singh

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal, Cj., and Sanjay Dhar, J., had taken suo moto action for initiating this PIL concerning Covid-19 pandemic; as the Union Territory was in the spate of second wave of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Amicus curiae, Mrs Monika Kohli, had expressed anxiety that as lawyers everyday both in Jammu and Srinagar Wings of High Court are getting infected by Covid-19 and they have not been vaccinated, there is threat to their life which needs to be addressed immediately by getting them vaccinated. She had further submitted that the families of the lawyers who have died recently due to Covid-19 may be provided some financial assistance.

Similarly, the issue of short supply of Remdesivir and deficiency of doctors and nursing staff as well as the oxygen to treat the Covid patients had been highlighted before the Court. In some writ petitions, the petitioners had insisted that the government be called upon to provide complete statistics in regard to the above items and to make operational the oxygen plants which are under erection for some time. The petitioners had also highlighted the shortage of ventilators.

The directions were also sought with regard to supply oxygen cylinders for use by the patients who are not admitted in the hospitals but are otherwise suffering from serious ailments and are home quarantined. And that some mechanism should be evolved so that supply of oxygen to the persons who are getting treatment at home of their serious ailments or those who have been home quarantined due to non-availability of beds in hospitals, may continue uninterrupted.

The Advocate General, Sh. D.C.Raina had submitted on behalf of government that there is no problem of supply of oxygen and there is no ban on use of oxygen for patients at home. They can have the supply of oxygen on medical prescription through Nodal officers. Regarding vaccination of lawyers, it was submitted that there is no difficulty in getting the lawyers above 45 years of age, registered and vaccinated in a group. But the lawyers between the age group of 18 to 45, as per the procedure provided by the government of India, have to get themselves registered online. Once they are registered, they will be vaccinated as per their turn or on the slot available.

The Court remarked that it is conscious of the fact that government is taking due steps for controlling the pandemic and to provide full medical support. However, still much more is required to be done and directions of the Court are primarily needed in respect of registration and vaccination of lawyers, supply of oxygen to patients at home, deficiency of ventilators, oxygen, beds and medication including remedisivir; and doctors, if any.

Insofar as the registration and vaccination of lawyers above the age of 45 years is concerned, the Bench directed the Registry of the Court to discuss the issue with the Finance Commissioner, Health and Medical Education to get some date fixed for the registration and vaccination and to carry out vaccination in groups either at some suitable place in the High Court Campus or Medical College or Hospital within a week. With regard to vaccination of lawyers between the age group of 18 to 45 they were advised to get themselves registered for vaccination and the government was directed to provide them vaccination facilities on priority at the earliest, if possible within a period of two weeks from the date of registration. The Bench said,

In case any family of the lawyer is in need of financial assistance either on account of medical expenditure or due to the death, the family members may approach the Bar Association with an application.

On the application being forwarded, the Court would speedily consider it and endeavor to provide maximum financial aid out of the welfare fund. At the same time, government is also directed to consider for making some additional budgetary allocation, as the funds available may not be sufficient to meet the requirement.

To resolve difficulty faced in the supply of oxygen to the patients at home, the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education is directed to nominate adequate number of Nodal Officers for each city and to publicise their full details with contact number etc so that such patients or their relatives may approach them with proper medical prescription for the supply of oxygen and once they are so approached they shall take immediate and adequate steps to ensure the supply of oxygen where it is found to be needed without causing any harassment to anyone.

Lastly, the Bench stated, we hope and trust that no one would make any effort to draw any mileage out of it so as to reduce it to a personal interest litigation or a publicity interest litigation and the media would also act cautiously in the best interest of the public and country.

[Court on its own motion v. Government of India, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 334, decided on 05-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsels for the Petitioners: Sunil Sethi, U.K.Jalali, K.S.Johal, Abhinav Sharma, Pranav Kohli, Rohit Kapoor and Ajay Bakshi

For Government of India: AG D.C.Raina Dy.  AG K.D.S. Kotwal