HC refuses to hear plea seeking uniform rate of COVID-19 vaccines

The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking to quash the different rates of COVID-19 vaccines by Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech for the Centre and State governments and fix the price at ₹150 per dose.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni said, “The Supreme Court has said that issues that have pan-India effect will be dealt with by it and pricing is a phenomenon applicable all over India. We are not entertaining it (PIL) as the apex court has fairly covered it.”

The PIL was filed by Fayzan Khan, an advocate, along with three law students — Arman Parve, Bushra Sayed and Trupti Gaikar. The PIL challenged the different rates of Covishield quoted by SII for its sale to the Centre, States, and private hospitals.

The petitioners are aggrieved “by varying charges quoted by SII for its vaccine — Covishield — by publishing the rates on its website, internet, and in press as ₹150 + GST per dose for the Centre, ₹400 per dose for States, and ₹600 per dose for private hospitals”.

The PIL said, “On April 24, Bharat Biotech also declared the rates for its vaccine — Covaxin — at ₹600 for State governments and ₹1,200 for private hospitals. These declarations have been made in response to a direction by the Centre that the manufacturers of vaccines would have to transparently make an advance declaration of the price at which vaccines would be made available to the States and in the open market from May 1.”

The petition urged the court to quash and set aside the rates declared by SII and Bharat Biotech by holding these costs discriminatory, arbitrary, unreasonable, and unjustified thus violating the Constitution of India.

The PIL urged the HC for a direction to the Centre and States to take steps to ensure availability of the COVID-19 vaccines at a uniform rate of ₹150 per dose by exercising powers under the National Disaster Management Act and the Essential Commodities Act and the sovereign powers so that the goal of complete vaccination could be achieved.

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