The top court also said the manufacturers could not be allowed to decide which state should get how much quota, and that the Centre should procure it from them and distribute it to the states.
“Whether the procurement is for the central government or the states, it is ultimately meant for the citizens. Why must we not adopt the model of the National Immunisation Programme?” the court said, according to legal news portal LiveLaw.in.
“Why can't the Centre acquire 100 per cent, identify the manufacturers and negotiate with them and then distribute to the states?” “We are talking about the centralisation of the procurement and the decentralisation of the distribution.”
Terming the second wave of Covid-19 as a “national crisis”, the court warned authorities against silencing people and their pleas for help on the presumption that they were raising false grievances on the internet. The court made it clear that any attempt to clamp down on the free flow of information on social media, including the call for help from people, would be treated as contempt of court.
“There should be a free flow of information; we should hear voices of citizens. This is a national crisis. There should not be any presumption that the grievances raised on the internet are always false. Let a strong message be sent to all the DGPs that there should not be any kind of clampdown,” a Bench said.
The court's observations assume significance following the recent decision of the Uttar Pradesh administration to prosecute people under the National Security Act for allegedly raising false alarms on social media. The court also pulled up the Centre for not ensuring continuous supply of oxygen to Delhi and said “you cannot sit tight and do nothing. My conscience is shaken. We cannot have 500 deaths on our hands. You have to do something urgently and supply deficit 200 mt oxygen to Delhi”. Not all deaths in the hospitals here were due to oxygen shortage, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated, to which the Bench said that the Centre had a Constitutional obligation towards Delhi, which is the face of the country.
The remarks were made by the court during the hearing of a suo motu case for ensuring essential supplies and services during the pandemic. The Bench also pulled up the Delhi government and said, “There should not be any political bickering. The Delhi government has to cooperate with the Centre to deal with the situation. Politics is for election but here at this time of humanitarian crisis; each and every life needs to be saved.” The apex court suggested that hostels, temples, churches and other places be opened for converting them as Covid care centres. The court also said off-the-cuff remarks by high courts should be avoided and judges should maintain some judicial restraint.