Right to Health
It is a settled law that right to health is included in the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of our Constitution. It is indisputable that availability of essential drugs to combat serious diseases is a component of the right to health. If a person on account of poverty or economic disability cannot have access to essential medicines,the cruel reality is that the person is likely to succumb to the fatal disease and the right to life would be violated.
A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya recently directed the central government to give details of steps taken by the Centre to check the prices of 348 drugs on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). The contention of the PIL petitioner before the Court was that though the NLEM had 348 drugs,prices of only 37 medicines were controlled by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority. In the last two years,the Court had repeatedly asked the government to spell out a mechanism to bring under price control regime,essential medicines which are used by poor patients to fight ailments,but that was of no avail. In this context,the Bench asked the secretaries of Ministry of Health and Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers to file affidavits stating whether the union government wanted to bring essential medicines under the ambit of price control.
To some,the Courts directions are tantamount to the judiciary governing the country. Justice Singhvi speaking for the Bench dispelled this misconception and rightly pointed out that government gets going only when the court steps in and that the court does that when it is essential and unavoidable. When the issue before the court concerns the health and life of citizens,the judiciary cannot prevaricate nor procrastinate. It must respond and the Bench did respond commendably in the interests of numerous poor patients.
Our Republican President
President Pranab Mukherjees move to do away with use of honorifics like Your Excellency and Honble for the President and use of Shri Pranab Mukherjee,President of India is welcome. Judges of the US Supreme Court are not addressed as My Lord or Your Lordship but simply by Mr Justice…. In India,we still address judges as My Lord or My Lady though the Bar Council of India has clarified that it is permissible to address judges as Your Honour,which is the form used for judges of the lower judiciary. However,advocates do not want to risk hurting the sensibilities of judges and there is still lavish use of My Lord and My Lady.
Interestingly,Rashtrapati Bhawan has entered a caveat that when our President is sharing the dais with foreign monarchs or ambassadors who are routinely addressed as His Royal Highness or His Imperial Highness or Your Excellency,our President will also be addressed by the current high sounding honorifics. Let us face it. Honorific modes of address are much relished and cannot be completely dispensed with.
Judgment for 9/11 victims
Law suits were filed by families of 47 victims from amongst the nearly 3,000 persons killed on 9/11 following the aerial attack on the Twin Towers. A District Court in New York included in the list of defendants,Iran along with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah,Afghanistans Taliban guerrillas and al-Qaeda,which took credit for the aerial terror attack. The District Court ordered Iran,al-Qaeda and other defendants to pay $6 billion as compensation to the victims of September 11,2001 attack.
Whilst one has no sympathy for the perpetrators and abettors of this horrific crime,it is questionable whether the District Court judgment can be effectively enforced. The parties ordered to pay will expectedly downright refuse to comply with the court order on the ground of lack of jurisdiction and other procedural infirmities. Unless the properties of the defendants are in the US,which can be attached in execution of the judgment,the victims may not get concrete relief. Nonetheless,the judgment is a great symbolic victory for the victims.
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