New Delhi: The Delhi High Court asked Thursday the Centre to explain the rationale behind keeping strict control over class of persons who can be vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently the government has said those above the age of 60 years or with comorbidities can receive vaccination. The Delhi High Court said two institutes have developed the vaccines COVISHIELD and COVAXIN. They are Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech. The court said they have more capacity to provide the vaccines but it seems that it is not being exploited.
“We are not utilising it fully. We are either donating it to foreign countries or selling it to them. We are not vaccinating our own people. So there has to be that sense of responsibility and urgency,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.
The high court directed the two institutes to file separate affidavits on their capacity to manufacture the vaccines on per day/ week/ month basis. It also asked how much unused capacity is lying. They also have to indicate if they can scale up their production capacities, it said.
“Union of India (UoI) shall file an affidavit disclosing the capacity to transport the vaccines while maintaining the whole chain particularly to the NCT of Delhi. The Union of India shall also indicate the extent to which it is presently being used,” the Delhi HC said.
“The UoI shall explain the rationale behind keeping strict control over class of persons who can be vaccinated as noticed in our last order. Under the present system, persons above 60 years of age and between 45 to 60 years with co-morbidities can receive vaccination. An affidavit to be filed by the UoI disclosing the rationale for such classification,” it said.
It also asked the Delhi government to carry out inspection of medical facilities available in court complexes here. The Delhi government has been asked to report if COVID-19 vaccination centres could be set up there and also the short comings in facilities.
The high court asked all the authorities to file their affidavits by March 9 and listed the matter for further hearing on March 10.
The Delhi High Court was hearing a PIL initiated by it to examine the demand of Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) to declare all people associated with the judicial functioning, including judges, court staff and lawyers as ‘frontline workers’ so that they could receive COVID-19 vaccination on priority and without limitations of their age or physical condition.
It also asked the Delhi High Court Bar Association and BCD to disclose the strength of members registered with them to get an idea of number of people to be vaccinated in the judicial system in the national capital.
During the hearing, the counsel for Bharat Biotech sought to know the target audience for vaccination and whether the ambit was entire judiciary.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and advocate Anil Soni, representing the Centre, informed the court that selection of class of people for vaccination was a policy decision which was taken by an expert body. Sharma informed the high court that a similar petition is pending before the Supreme Court and will come up for hearing on Monday.
To this, the bench said the issue here is to find out if the whole judicial system, including judges, lawyers and court staff, can be prioritised without age and co-morbidities limitation.