The Madras High Court on Monday expressed hope that the Centre would make good on its earlier assurance that 216 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would be available in India by December 31, 2021. The observation was made while dealing with the suo motu case registered by the High Court to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. With the COVID-19 pandemic situation gradually stabilising in the State and Union Territory, the Court has expressed its inclination to close suo motu proceedings.
Status reports indicated that there has been an increase in beds in both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the Court recorded. Oxygen supply had also been augmented by the Centre, the Court noted, for which Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan was commended during the hearing on Monday.
The only lingering concern appeared to be the short supply of COVID-19 vaccines, the Court observed. In this regard, the Court took on record that the Centre has already indicated on affidavit the future allotment of vaccines to Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. It went on to add:
"Earlier, the Union's commitment to ensure that 216 crore doses of vaccine are available by the end of the year has been recorded. It is hoped that the target is met sooner, rather than later."Earlier, a plea seeking special measures to vaccinate the differently-abled had also been adjourned given that vaccines were not adequately available at present. As far as other resources were concerned, the Court observed in the suo motu case,
In the course of the hearing, the Court hinted that it may close the suo motu proceedings in the next couple of weeks given how the COVID-19 conditions have considerably improved, save in some areas such as Coimbatore.
In the order passed subsequently, the Court said:
"The present proceedings were instituted not with the intention of the Court, ill-equipped in such regard as it is, to take over the management of the Covid situation; but only to monitor the same and, if at all, provide a platform to various stakeholders to come together. The matter may have served its purpose and in the wake of the second surge being apparently over, except for a few pockets in the State, the matter may be closed."
The Court took on record submissions that the State should not be ashamed to project the figures of active COVID-19 cases and related information. The Bench proceeded to emphasise that "The number of active cases, the number of deaths and other figures should be available on the State's relevant website on actual basis."
The Court also made a note to record "that there has been no allegation of underreporting of cases either in the State or in the Union Territory, unlike in some other places."
The Court took on record concerns raised that though this may not be the case with the Chief Minister and other Ministers, there were certain political leaders who "come with a train of supporters who do not maintain any distancing norms" while inspecting or visiting hospitals amid the pandemic.