June 23, 2021 9:58:11 pm
The Gujarat High Court (HC) on Wednesday granted temporary relief to a corporal with the Indian Air Force (IAF) posted in Jamnagar who was served a show-cause notice by the IAF for not getting vaccinated for Covid-19.
The 28-year-old corporal, Yogendra Kumar, moved the high court after the IAF served him the notice on May 10, seeking an explanation on why he should not be terminated from service for his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
On February 26, Kumar sent a personal application to the Commanding Officer expressing his unwillingness to get vaccinated and stated that he was using ayurvedic medicines to increase his immunity. “I adopt allopathy medicines only in emergency or if the solution is not possible in Ayurveda… my consciousness does not allow to get vaccinated instead of using ayurvedic methods… it is my humble request that I may be excused from vaccination of Covid-19,” he stated in the application.
In response to Kumar’s application, a show-cause notice was first served on April 26 by Air Commodore MS Deswal, asking reasons as to why no action should be taken against him as per the Regulations for the Air Force 1964.
Kumar responded on April 29, stating that apart from taking ayurvedic medicines and practicing Covid-appropriate behaviour, he was also doing yoga and taking sufficient amount of Vitamin-C.
“…people get infected even after obtaining both the doses of vaccination. Covid-19 vaccine is not fully approved by the administration and has been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Hence, it should not be considered as an only option for prevention against Covid-19. People must believe in Ayurveda, which is our ancient technique of treatment,” Kumar stated in his reply.
On May 10, in a second show-cause notice, the IAF sought an explanation from Kumar on why his service should not be terminated for his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine. A part of the notice reproduced in Kumar’s petition states, “Your defiance verges to gross indiscipline and your continuation in the service is likely to adversely impact the health of other air warriors and AF (airforce)civilians… the AOC-in-C SWAC (Air Officer Commanding-in-chief, South Western Air Command), IAF, is of the opinion that your continuation in the disciplined force… is undesirable… you are to show cause as to why you should not be dismissed from the service in terms of Section 20(3) of the Air Force Act, 1950 read with Rule18 of the Air Force Rules, 1969…”
Advocates of the petitioner, however, said no official order in writing was issued by the IAF mandating vaccination for its personnel.
Kumar moved before the Gujarat High Court on May 21, seeking that the show-cause notice of May 10 be quashed and set aside. On June 22, a division bench of Justices AJ Desai and AP Thaker issued notice to the Indian Air Force and Union of India through the Ministry of Defence, seeking their response by July 1. Until then, “no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioner, who is at present not willing to take vaccine”, the bench said.
The petitioner, represented by advocates Gunjan Singh, Aum Kotwal and Shree Kotwal, has submitted that the central government has repeatedly stated that getting vaccinated for Covid-19 was voluntary and submitted that the Supreme Court has upheld that that an individual has right over his/her own body and the right to decide the medical treatment for themselves. The petitioner has also cited instances of adverse events following immunisation.
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