SC-govt tiff brews over vax policy, ordinance

Wednesday 09th June 2021 06:51 EDT

A confrontation has been brewing between the Supreme Court and Centre over the past weeks with the two constitutional entities locking horns, first over Covid-19 vaccination and pricing policies, and then over promulgation of Tribunal Reforms Ordinance, which is allegedly in utter disregard of apex court judgments.

If a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat had termed the Centre’s Covid-19 vaccination policy for the 18-44 age group as “prima facie arbitrary and irrational” in an order published on Wednesday last, another bench of Justices Rao, Hemant Gupta and Bhat on Thursday last said the ordinance was a reflection of the Centre's "recalcitrant and adamant" attitude in attempting to override the mandate given by the SC.

During the hearing on Covid-19 management issues on May 31, solicitor general Tushar Mehta repeatedly and firmly appealed to the SC not to step into the executive’s policy domain by seeking to tweak policy frameworks. Mehta had said the judiciary was barred from substituting the executive’s wisdom with its own.

The SC had conceded that policy-making was within the executive’s sole domain but said it would not be a silent spectator when policies breached the constitutional rights of citizens.

On Thursday, the bench of Justices Rao, Gupta and Bhat reserved its order on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which sought to differ from the SC mandate for a five-year tenure to chairpersons and members of tribunals by prescribing a four-year tenure; also fixing eligibility age at 50, which negated the court order for allowing lawyers with 10 years experience to be in the zone of consideration.

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