Updated: January 11, 2022 1:58:46 am
Responding to a petition seeking to set aside Maharashtra government’s decision of last year — to permit only “fully vaccinated” people to board local trains, and visit malls and workplaces — the Bombay High Court on Monday observed that “vaccination is sort of a weapon to fight against Covid-19 which enables chances of getting admitted to hospital get minimised.”
The court asked petitioners if the state government has taken a policy decision for the better interest of public at large in parens patriae jurisdiction (power to protect persons who are unable to act on their own behalf). It also pointed out that more than 75% of eligible population of the state has already received at least one dose of the vaccine, so what could be a ground for the HC to interfere with such a decision.
The bench has been hearing pleas filed by activists Feroze Mithiborwala and Yohan Tengra challenging the state’s decision.
“The state government says it has the responsibility of looking after the entire population of Maharashtra and it has to devise a policy to protect the maximum number of population from Covid-19. Vaccination is sort of a weapon in the fight against Covid-19. No one says if anyone is vaccinated, he or she will be immune to Covid-19 infection in future,” a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik orally remarked to the petitioners.
It went on to question, “There are people who have contracted Covid-19 after wearing masks, vaccination and physical distancing. However, the idea behind vaccination is that it will act as a shield for future infection. Chances of getting admitted to hospital get minimised by it. If the state has made a policy decision, which they are entitled to take for better interest of the public at large and as parens patriae, there could be a sounder policy, but would that be a ground for us to say that policy should be interfered with?”
Advocate Nilesh Ojha, appearing for petitioner Yohan Tengra, argued that the state government has no authority to pass any such order under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, contrary to Central government guidelines, and if any order has to be passed by state authority, it has to be put before the state legislature within 30 days as per the DM Act. The life and liberty of citizens cannot be curtailed, argued Ojha.
The bench said, “More than 75 per cent (Over 7.9 crore) of the total population (over 11 crore) has got at least the first dose in Maharashtra… No medicine will give 100 percent protection.. You (petitioner) have to show the decision is so arbitrary and it has to shock the conscience of the court… judicial review is available in policy decisions regarding health.”
Seeking response from petitioners, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 17.
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