‘Not Stopping High Courts But Can’t Be Silent Spectator’: SC

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The Supreme Court today again clarified that while taking up the shortage of oxygen, medicines, vaccines and other supplies in the Covid crisis, it did not intend to stop High Courts from hearing petitions in various states. The court said it wanted to play a complimentary role and could not be a silent spectator during what it called a “national calamity” for the country.

“There are certain national issues to be dealt by the Supreme Court. At a time of national crisis the Supreme Court cannot be a silent spectator. We are not preventing the High Courts from hearing. The Supreme Court intends to play a complimentary role,” said the three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao and Ravindra S Bhat.

The Covid situation across the country is a “national calamity” and the court has to protect the lives of citizens, said the judges.

The Supreme Court last week decided to take up the problems related to distribution of oxygen, vaccines and medicines across the country amid rising Covid cases and issued notice to the Centre. Calling for a “national plan”, it said six High Courts across the country were hearing related petitions but there was confusion and diversion of resources.

Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly clarified that its intention was not to hijack the High Court cases. On Friday, a bench led by outgoing Chief Justice SA Bobde was upset about criticism “by senior lawyers”.

Today, the Supreme Court said: “It is necessary for us to clarify what is the purpose of issuing notice? The object of these proceedings is not to take over what the High Court is monitoring. High Courts have a valuable role. They are in a better position to monitor.”

During the hearing, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to produce information about the supply of oxygen, the projected need of states, the methodology adopted on the requirement of states, the enhancement of critical medical requirements including beds, steps to ensure availability of essential drugs including Remdesivr and Faviprivir, projected vaccine requirement and vaccine prices.

The court will take up the case again on Friday.

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