What is suo motu cognisance:
Suo moto is a Latin phrase that means “on its own motion.” It’s used where a government or court officer takes action on their own initiative. Sua sponte, also known as suo motu, is a legal term that refers to an act of authority taken without formal prompting by another group. The concept is most often used to describe decisions made by a judge without prior motion or request from the parties.
The acute crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) is the greatest biomedical disaster of our lifetimes. This, like so many other tragedies in the past such as wars, famines, civil strife, and economic downturns, will pass, but it will certainly change the world. Many of the modifications are now visible, while others would be unavoidable until the pandemic is ended.
The catastrophe unfolding in India seems to be the worst-case scenario predicted by many in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic: with insufficient hospital beds, access to tests, medications, and oxygen, the 1.4 billion-strong country is collapsing under the weight of infections.
Suo motu cognisance by SC:
A bench chaired by the then-CJI SA Bobde decided to take suo moto cases related to covid-19 on April 23. The bench had noted that numerous High Court orders on COVID-related issues “may have the effect of speeding up and prioritizing services to a certain collection of citizens while slowing down the provision of these facilities to certain other communities, whether local, international, or otherwise.”
The Supreme Court of India took suo motu cognisance of the situation unfolding in the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s second surge on April 22. The Supreme Court also registered a suo motu case on the management of problems that have arisen in different states as a result of the increasing number of COVID cases.
“The object of these proceedings are not to supplant the High Courts or to take over from High Courts what they are doing. High Courts are in a better position to monitor what is going on within their territorial boundaries.” Justice Chandrachud-led bench clarified.
During national crisis, Supreme Court cannot be a mute spectator. The role of the Supreme Court is complimentary in nature. The issues which travail state boundaries is what this court will look into and thus Article 32 jurisdiction has been assumed”, said the Court.
The Supreme Court had clarified that the object of the top court assuming jurisdiction suo moto under Article 32 is not to supplant or replace the procedure of hearings conducted by various High Courts to deal with pandemic-related issues. The Supreme Court has stated that it would provide a notice to the parties involved on the following key issues:
- Availability of oxygen
- Availability of essential medicines,
- Vaccination methods and procedures, as well as
- The power to declare a lockdown
The Supreme Court serves as a supplement to the High Courts, and if the High Courts are having trouble in grappling with an issue due to territorial constraints, the Supreme Court can step in to assist.
The bench then sent notices to the Centre, State Governments, UTs, and parties in High Courts, asking them to show reason why the Supreme Court should not issue a uniform order on issues like medical oxygen, vital medicines, vaccinations, and lockout declarations. The legal community voiced opposition to this, believing that the Supreme Court was attempting to take over cases from the High Courts, who were issuing immediate directives to address these matters within their jurisdictions.
Congress has challenged the Supreme Court’s “false” and “uncalled for” suo motu interference in the country’s management of Covid-19 issues, in an unusual but forthright critique of a Supreme Court decision. The opposition, which sent Abhishek Singhvi to the official briefing to express its concerns, believed the SC decision was inaccurate because it led to “over-centralization” of judicial and administrative powers at a time when the complete opposite was required to address the pandemic’s shortcomings.
The Supreme Court Bar Association lodged an appeal in the case, arguing that the appeals should be heard by the High Courts because they are better equipped to deal with local problems.
In this dire situation of covid-19 pandemic, people are suffering for basic need for their wellbeing, mainly beds, oxygen availability and medicines. At this catastrophic situation, its need of hour to come forward and work together. As mentioned by supreme court, it doesn’t want to snatch the power from high courts but only want to give little aid to people if high court can’t. it can be fruitful if supreme court will tale suo motu cognisance of some important covid-19 issues and expediate the process of relief.
Author: Shejal Rathore from Indore Institute of Law.