New Delhi, May 31: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre for its vaccination policy. The top court also questioned the Central government's vaccine procurement strategy as different states issued global tenders to purchase vaccines. The apex court slammed the Centre for mandatory registration on the CoWIN portal for people to get vaccinated without keeping in mind the real "digital India" situation. It said that policy makers must have an ear to the ground. The Centre told the court that the  entire eligible population would be vaccinated by the end of 2021. Supreme Court Sets Up National Task Force To Streamline Oxygen Allocation to States And Union Territories Amid COVID-19 Surge.

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao was hearing a suo motu case related to the supply of essential medicines and vaccines to COVID-19 infected people. On mandatory registration on the CoWIN portal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the apex court that registration is mandatory as a person needs to be traced for a second dose. He added that as far as rural areas, there are community centres where a person can get registered for vaccination. COVID-19 Vaccination in India: Entire Eligible Population Will Be Vaccinated by the End of 2021; Centre Tells SC.

The court asked the government to place the policy document on record.  The bench said, "You keep on saying the situation is dynamic, but policy makers must have their ears on the ground. You keep on saying digital India, digital India, but the situation is actually different in rural areas. How will an illiterate labourer from Jharkhand get registered in Rajasthan? Tell us how you will address this digital divide."

The Supreme Court told Mehta that the government should change the policy accordingly. It said, "You must smell the coffee and see what is happening across the country. You must know the ground situation and change the policy accordingly. If we had to do it, we would have done it 15-20 days back."

At the outset, it asked the Centre about the vaccine procurement policy of the Centre by referring to the fact that states like Punjab and Delhi are in the process of issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19. The bench said that even Municipal Corporation like Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had received bids. "Is this the policy of the central government that the state or municipal corporation can procure the vaccine or the Union Government is going to procure for them like a nodal agency? We want clarity on this and rationale behind this policy," the bench said.

On the pricing policy, the SC questioned the Centre's decision to left it to manufacturers to fix the price of vaccines. It added that the Central government has to take over the responsibility of one price for the nation. Notably, the Centre's pricing policy of COVID-19 vaccine drew flak from opposition parties.

(With inputs from PTI)

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 31, 2021 03:18 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website