NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was taking up the national crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and did not intend to supplant the role being played by the executive or the high courts, which were striving to provide succour to the stricken and fearful citizenry in states.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat said, “The suo motu cognisance taken by the SC was not in any manner intended to supplant the high courts, which have a valuable role in exercise of their powers under Article 226 to protect the fundamental rights as well as legal rights of citizens in states, where the HCs are in a better position to monitor the situation and provide succour.”
But as it acknowledged the role of the HCs in enforcing the fundamental and legal rights of citizens, the bench also asserted that the SC also had a role to play when it came to issues with countrywide repercussions.
“Obviously, there is a need for the SC to step in to deal with national level issues, especially those relating to coordination in supply of oxygen, medical equipment, medicines and vaccination of all eligible citizens, especially as the category above the age of 18 years will be eligible from May 1,” the bench said.
“At a time of national crisis, the SC cannot be a mute spectator. We intend to play a complementary role to the HCs. We will ensure that HC orders are enforced. We want to clarify that the HCs will play their role. We wish to do our part,” the judges said even as they warned states not to use the proceedings as a platform for recrimination on political grounds.
The Centre, through solicitor general Tushar Mehta, said it had approached the crisis arising from the sudden surge in Covid-19 cases in a holistic manner and had taken states along. “Coordination is done at the highest level of the prime minister and chief ministers. Everyone is responding collectively and no one is acting as one vs another. We have a high-level coordination committee to iron out differences. Steps are being taken on a war footing and the situation is monitored 24×7,” he added.
The bench assured the Union government that it was not going to substitute the executive’s wisdom and policy in tackling the pandemic with the views of the court. “We are not taking over the work of the executive. It is for the government to decide what method and mechanism is best suited in the present situation. However, we would like to give our views on certain issues and suggest improvements for achieving better results.”
When certain states started airing their individual grievances on supply of oxygen and stoppage of oxygen tankers by some district administrations, the bench warned all states against using the SC proceedings as a platform for exhibiting political rivalry and attempting to score brownie points against one another. “No recrimination please. Let us find solutions to the present crisis. Recrimination is not going to solve anything,” the bench said.