SC to hear PIL seeking to prevent sale of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines

PIL seeks direction to UoI and others, to issue strict guidelines and regulations under the DMA by constituting a special committee to prevent the chances of fake and counterfeit COVID vaccine selling/circulating by any organization, company and online apps

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will on Monday hear fresh PIL seeking directions under the Disaster Management Act (DMA) to prevent the sale of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines.

The PIL was filed by the lawyer Vishal Tiwari.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrahud and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Shripathi Ravindra Bhat will hear on May 31 the fresh petition filed by Tiwari with his “concrete facts”, in the case.

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A three-judge bench of the top court headed by the then CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde had on February 11, 2021, refused to entertain the petition of Tiwari and asked him to file a fresh one, with “concrete facts” in the matter.

“We understand your motivation. But you (Tiwari) file a fresh case with concrete facts. We cannot issue general directions. We are not the legislature”, the three-judge bench of the top court, led by the CJI (retired now) Bobde had said.

The PIL seeks a direction to the Union of India (UOI) and others, to issue strict guidelines and regulations under the DMA by constituting a special committee to prevent the chances of fake and counterfeit COVID vaccine selling/circulating by any organization, company and online apps.

The petitioner sought appropriate directions that the respondents, including the Centre, be directed to run the awareness programme for the safety of the citizens against the danger of counterfeit vaccination of coronavirus.

Tiwari, in his petition, sought a direction that the respondents be directed to enact a strict law against the criminal act committed by selling or circulating the counterfeit vaccine by any organization or individual.

The petitioner noted that the COVID pandemic took the entire world into its captivity.

The petition said all countries have already started research for its cure and after several months of a research programme, some countries are successful in inventing the vaccine against the infection of coronavirus.

It said United Kingdom gained the first position in launching the anti-COVID vaccine programme for its citizens and authorized Pfizer for anti-COVID vaccination.

The right to healthcare, the right to safe health and the right to life enshrined under Article 21 guarantees the protection from fake treatment during this pandemic, the petition said.

Interpol has issued an orange notice to its all member countries and has warned that along with the corona vaccination programme, several criminal organizations will be active and will circulate and sell counterfeit or fake vaccine, the petition said.

This criminal act will be carried out by both modes, physically and online. Many websites will be active in committing such fraud, Tiwari’s petition said.

It said people can be easily be attracted by them (illegal and anti-social elements) as the pandemic has created a situation of fear and uncertainty and people with an intention to save their lives from the deadly virus can easily fall prey to the hands of such criminal entities or organizations.

Noting that India is a vast country with huge population, the petition said that it can be a big place of “illegal profit” for criminal organizations and companies as it can be made a market for selling counterfeit and fake COVID vaccine.

“Such organizations adopt a very smart technique of publicity which can attract several innocent citizens of our nation for buying the vaccine,” it said.

The petition also said that online fraud has become a regular criminal act the country is also facing this challenge.

Under the Disaster Management Act, both the Centre and States have the power to take necessary steps for safety of the citizens. The protection of citizens from fake and counterfeit anti-COVID vaccine is also a task covered under this Act, Tiwari said.

“If criminal organizations succeed in committing such an act, it may lead to chaos and big imbalance, as it will adversely affect the vaccination programme of the government,” the petition said, adding that instead of curing the disease, it will bring more disastrous effects.

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