Concerned over reports that kids and rural India may be exposed more in the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre whether any study on these aspects has been conducted.
The top court also asked the Centre about its responsibility on the regulation of prices of vaccines and said it has seen "prices of Remdesivir and some other medicines hitting the roof".
"Has any study been carried out by any government for the rural areas. We have been told that children will be exposed in the third wave and that rural areas will be affected. We want to know the vaccination policy for that too," said a special bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.
Hearing a suo motu case on management of COVID situation in the country, the top court highlighted the "digital divide" between rural and urban India and questioned the Centre over mandatory registration on CoWIN App for COVID-19 vaccination, saying the policy makers must "have ears on ground" to effectively deal with the "unprecedented" pandemic crisis.
Senior advocate and amicus curiae Meenakshi Arora referred to the differential pricing policy for vaccines and said that 25 per cent of them would be going to private hospital.
She narrated incidents and said at some places, people after registering with CoWIN app instantly get calls from private hospitals.
"Those who have registered on CoWIN. They have not received calls from the government agency, but they are getting calls from private hospitals that get vaccinated for Rs 900. A family of four will have to pay Rs 4,000 which is a huge amount for them," Arora said.
"We have seen in this pandemic itself that prices of Remdesivir and some other medicines were hitting the roof. We have all seen. What is our responsibility here," Justice Bhat observed.
"Rs 900 price is not fixed. They may choose to charge more. The Centre has not fixed this. They have only issued an advisory. If there is a shortage, it could become Rs 2,000," the bench said.
The top court also acknowledged the difficulties being faced by people in not getting the slots for vaccination on the app.
"This is a real fear among the people. I have received distress calls from people across the country, that they are not getting slots," the bench said.
One of the judges at the bench suggested the Centre to tweak its vaccination policy to ensure that vulnerable people, having co-morbidities, in the same age group be given primacy in vaccination.
Senior advocate and amicus curiae Jaideep Gupta said, presently, the app does not provide this kind of facility.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)