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‘Rs 150 for Centre, 300-400 for states?’: SC questions disparity in vaccine prices

File photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Calling COVID-19 a national crisis, the Supreme Court of India Friday questioned the difference in prices of the same vaccines being procured by Central and state governments.

A bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice LN Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat expressed its reservation over the price disparity.

It asked the Centre to stop private manufacturers dictate the pricing and distribution of vaccines.

“The same manufacturer is saying Rs 150 to you and 300-400 to the states! At a bulk level, the price difference will be 30,000 to 40,000 crores. Why must the nation pay this? This can be used elsewhere! Why can’t the central government get in bulk and then the states have it picked up?” Justice Bhat said.

“Do not leave the vaccine pricing and distribution to the manufactures, This is equity over public goods. You need to pick up the responsibility for this,” the court said. 

Noting that the government also funded the development of the vaccines, it also owns them.

“Rs 4500 crores were funded to the organisation for the development of the vaccine. Then we also own the product!” Justice Bhat said.

The bench also asked both Centre and states not to take action against anyone posting a shortage of oxygen, beds, or doctors as “spreading rumour”, terming the the second wave of COVID-19 a national crisis.

“There should be no clampdown on citizens seeking help on the presumption that they are raising false grievances on the internet,” the apex court said.

In its last hearing on April 27, the bench had asked the state governments to file a report on their health infrastructure and did not restrain the High Courts from passing any order on COVID-19.

The apex court asked the state governments to file replies by Thursday with regard to their health infrastructure and said that the High Courts are not restrained from passing any directions as they are hearing the cases in their respective states and they know the ground situation better.

The bench had asked the central government to explain the basis and rationale behind the pricing of anti-Covid vaccines and other necessary items.