SC rightly slams Narendra Modi Govt on vaccination

Arbitrariness and irrationality have been the essential features of not just the Modi government’s vaccination policy but also of many important decisions it took in the last seven years

Ramdev Bakshi |

Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The Supreme Court correctly called the Narendra Modi government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy for the 18-44 age group “arbitrary and irrational.” Indeed the government’s entire Covid response, including its decisions on jabs, has been marked with Modi’s Caesarist approach, unilateral decision making, and self-righteousness. Unsurprisingly, the government is loath to not any criticism but also judicial review.

So, typically, the government had beseeched the apex court to trust its (the government’s) wisdom and leave executive decisions to the government. The SC bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao, and S. Ravindra Bhat rubbished the Centre’s contention, saying, “Our Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies. Judicial review and soliciting constitutional justification for policies formulated by the executive is an essential function, which the courts are entrusted to perform.”

This must have hurt the ruling dispensation, which doesn’t want any restraints, checks, and reviews of its policies and decisions. Its attitude has the ring of pharaoh-like hubris: let it be written, let it be done.

The SC said, “Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the state/UT governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational.”

In fact, arbitrariness and irrationality have been the essential features of many important decisions that the government has made in the last seven years. Why on earth was the demonetization of high denomination notes done? Nobody knows. Who were the persons who advised the Prime Minister to make that earth-shaking announcement on November 8, 2016? Nobody knows. What were the objectives and were they met? Nobody knows.

Similarly, nobody knows about the deliberations and the people involved that led to the decision that a complete 21-day lockdown would be imposed from March 25 last year. Further, nobody knows as to why the government didn’t show much interest in vaccinating as many people as possible. India happens to be the biggest vaccine maker of the world. Yet, there is a shortage of jabs. We mentioned elsewhere ( that a couple of doctrines, Swadeshi and socialism, are responsible for this mess.

The apex court also talked about the pricing mechanism of and government expenditure on the vaccines. “The Union Budget for Financial Year 2021-2022 had earmarked Rs 35,000 crore for procuring vaccines,” it said. It wanted the government “to clarify how these funds have been spent so far and why they cannot be utilized for vaccinating persons aged 18-44 years.”

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