By LE Desk

New Delhi, May 13: Justice D Y Chandrachud, who is heading the Supreme Court’s three-judge special bench on Covid management, has tested positive and is in isolation. The apex court said it has deferred Thursday’s scheduled hearing on “distribution of essential supplies and services during the pandemic and similar matters”, The Indian Express reported.

In a notification issued Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that “since one of the Hon’ble Judges of the bench scheduled to hear” the suo motu matter on Thursday has tested positive for Covid, “the Special Bench comprising Hon’ble Dr Justice D Y Chandrachud, Hon’ble Mr Justice L Nageswara Rao and Hon’ble Mr Justice S Ravindra Bhat in Court No.5 will not sit and the matters listed before this bench stand deferred and fresh date of listing shall be notified later”.

Due to the pandemic, the Supreme Court has been hearing cases via video conferencing. Four other judges of the court had tested positive in the past, and have since recovered.

On May 10, the court adjourned the hearing in the Covid matter to May 13 following technical glitches.

On Thursday, the bench was scheduled to take up an affidavit filed by the Centre in response to certain queries posed by it on April 30. The court had called for “revisiting” the Centre’s “revised” vaccine procurement policy, saying “the manner in which the current policy has been framed would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health, which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution.”

It had also sought some answers on the differential pricing of vaccines for states and the Centre.

In its reply filed on May 9, the Centre said that its vaccination policy had been framed to ensure equitable distribution with the limited availability of vaccines and vulnerability, and that vaccinating the entire country was not possible in one go due to the suddenness of the pandemic.

The policy, it said, is “just, equitable, non-discriminatory and based upon an intelligible differentiating factor between the two age groups (45 plus and those below)” and “conforms to mandate of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and is made after several rounds of consultation and discussion with experts, state governments and vaccine manufacturers…”

Urging the court to trust the executive’s decisions, it said the policy requires “no interference by this Hon’ble Court as while dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude, the Executive does have a room for free play…in larger public interest”.

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