“Let Thousand Flowers Bloom”: Top Court On Plea For Uniform Vaccine Code

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“Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let wisdom come from any source,” the Supreme Court said today as it allowed a political party to intervene and give its suggestions in a matter on Covid preparedness.

The top court refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) seeking a direction for a uniform pan-India free Covid vaccination policy and setting up a panel of epidemiologists and virologists to ascertain the impact of the virus and suggest measures to check its spread.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikaram Nath, and BV Nagarathna said that though the PIL was filed amid the second wave of Covid, “your purpose is subserved through our orders. We have already passed orders in the suo motu case on Covid preparedness. You can intervene in that matter and give your suggestions.

“Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let wisdom come from whichever source possible”.

Justice Chandrachud added that though the expression was used in a different context in World Political History, it can be used in this case in different contexts.

In 1957, Chinese leader Mao Zedong had first used the expression, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to invite different views of the intelligentsia on the country’s political system.

Justice Chandrachud told advocate A Selvin Raja, appearing for SDPI, “You can come and give your suggestions in that (suo motu) matter. We will allow your intervention. You are most welcome”.

The bench noted in its order that the petition was filed on May 10 and by several orders passed in the suo motu matter (taken up by the court on its own) on Covid preparedness, the concerns have been taken care of.

“There has been a modification of the vaccination policy of the Union of India to ensure its maximum possible coverage. A National Task Force has also been constituted of prominent doctors across the country, virologists and epidemiologists by the orders of the court in suo motu proceedings,” it said.

The top court said the petitioner does not press the plea at this stage and is reserving liberty to assist the court in the suo motu proceedings, if the need arises in the future, he can intervene in the matter.

While disposing of the plea, it told Raja that the National Task Force constituted by the court has doctors from all over the country and they are experts in their domain, and the union cabinet secretary is its convenor.

On May 8, the top court constituted a 12-member National Task Force of top medical experts to formulate a methodology for allocation of oxygen to states and union territories for saving lives of COVID-19 patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.

On May 31, it criticized the vaccination policy and said that the Indian Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators when the rights of citizens are infringed upon by executive policies.

The top court had said that in grappling with the second wave of the COVID pandemic, it does not intend to second-guess the wisdom of the executive when it chooses between two competing and efficacious policy measures.

It had added however that it would continue to exercise jurisdiction to determine “if the chosen policy conforms to the standards of reasonableness, militates against manifest arbitrariness and protects the right to life of all persons”.

On June 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the central government will provide free coronavirus vaccines to states and union territories to inoculate all above 18 from June 21.

He had said that the Centre will take over the 25% state procurement quota while asserting that vaccine supply would be increased significantly in the coming days.

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