The article highlights the role the Supreme Court can play in universal vaccination in India.
What is Article 32?
Article 32 deals with the ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’, or affirms the right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred in Part III of the Constitution.
It is one of the fundamental rights listed in the Constitution that each citizen is entitled.
It states that the Supreme Court “shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part”.
The right guaranteed by this Article “shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution”.
Dr B R Ambedkar has called it the very soul and heart of the Constitution. It cannot be suspended except during the period of Emergency.
Types of Writs under it
Both the High Courts and the Supreme Court can be approached for violation or enactment of fundamental rights through five kinds of writs:
Habeas corpus (related to personal liberty in cases of illegal detentions and wrongful arrests)
Mandamus — directing public officials, governments, courts to perform a statutory duty;
Quo Warranto — to show by what warrant is a person holding public office;
Prohibition— directing judicial or quasi-judicial authorities to stop proceedings which it has no jurisdiction for; and
Certiorari— re-examination of an order given by judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative authorities.
Why Supreme Court needs to step in
Amid raging debate over the vaccination strategy, the role the Supreme Court of India can play to safeguard the right to life guaranteed under Article 21, for which it is duty-bound to exercise jurisdiction under Article 32 needs consideration.
In this regard, universal vaccination is a glimmer of hope.
The Supreme Court of India can facilitate speed and deeper penetration of universal vaccination, which is now commonly accepted as the only possible solution to the pandemic in the long run.
Issue of patent of vaccine
It is time to question patents claimed by vaccines that have been developed with aid from the state in research and development.
These patents, if established, must be immediately acquired with just and adequate compensation and made accessible to all manufacturers.
This was done for medicines for AIDS and it can be done again under the Patents Act.
The Court can also issue mandamus to undertake this exercise on an emergency basis.
Thereafter, all pharmaceutical companies with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act must be allowed to manufacture vaccines at a pre-approved price of cost + 6 per cent return on investment.
States can also be directed to incentivise the setting up of new manufacturing facilities as a possible third wave, periodic booster doses and the need for ancillary vaccines make it a long-term phenomenon.
All this has to be ensured in addition to the free import of vaccines approved by advanced nations.
The vaccine administration needs to be ramped up both in state and private facilities.
For vaccine hesitancy, we need to incentivise the vaccination through a direct deposit of Rs 500 in Jan Dhan accounts for each vaccinated member of BPL families.
This vaccination can be made compulsory for identifiable categories of persons from MGNREGA beneficiaries to Aadhaar Card holders to income-tax payers to bank account holders to driving-licence holders.
There must be a strict penalty to be recovered from those who do not get vaccinated without medical reasons.
Private efforts can be made eligible for reimbursement of cost.