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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Chhattisgarh pauses vaccination after High Court says reconsider policy

The health department has issued a circular to district collectors informing them about the same, as vaccinating under the current policy could be construed as "contempt of court".

Written by Gargi Verma | Raipur |
Updated: May 6, 2021 7:26:31 am
People queue up to receive the dose of Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center. (PTI Photo)

Following objections from the High Court over its vaccination policy, Chhattisgarh government has postponed the vaccination of age group 18-44 till further notice. The health department issued a circular to district collectors on May 5 informing them about the same, as vaccinating under the current policy could be construed as “contempt of court”.

Saying that paucity of vaccines and limited supply cannot be reasons to deprive the people of their right to access to healthcare, the Chhattisgarh High Court had on Tuesday asked the state government to fix a reasonable ratio for allotment of vaccines and to reconsider its policy prioritising certain socio-economic groups within the age group of 18 to 44 years. It also raised questions on the legality of the Chhattisgarh government’s plans to “tinker” with the Centre’s vaccination policy.

The court’s remarks came while it was hearing petitions challenging the Chhattisgarh government’s decision to vaccinate Antyodaya card-holders first, followed by those below the poverty line and then those above. The government’s decision was challenged by several interveners, including Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) head Amit Jogi.

The bench of Chief Justice P R Ramachandra Menon and Justice P P Sahu directed the state government to hold discussions with secretaries of the relevant departments at the higher level to take a decision considering all relevant aspects, including vulnerability, chance to spread the disease and number of eligible persons in the group.

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The petitioners argued that the government’s sub-classification is beyond the constitutional mandate and is patently in violation of the law of equality and equal opportunity before law, besides discriminating against citizens with reference to their right to life.

“The entire world is following the concept of Triage, to provide vaccine to those who are vulnerable and have comorbidities. The decision of the state government is not only unscientific but also against the constitution,” Jogi said. Advocate Kishore Bhaduri, along with his son Sabyasachi Bhaduri, in his application said that despite registering through the Centre’s Cowin application, they were denied vaccination. “The department has arbitrarily introduced class/income-based classification for administering the vaccine.”

However, Advocate General Satish Chandra Verma said there was a serious lapse on part of the Central government which did not provide the state with enough vaccines, necessitating a sub-classification. “Particularly since the Antyodaya group who are residing mostly in the remote areas and who are rather illiterate or not knowing anything much about the Covid-19 pandemic, symptoms, complications, necessity to register in the portal and as to the infrastructure, are moving around quite freely which spreads the disease much faster. Case is almost similar in the case of below poverty line group… hence, there is a rationale in the sub-classification of persons in the age group of 18 to 44.”

However, the bench told the government to hold necessary discussions and scheduled the matter for further hearing on May 7.

The circular issued by health department on May 5 said that a committee under the chief secretary had been made, as per the High Court’s direction, which would decide the division of vaccines. “Despite demanding at least 75 lakh vaccines, the state had no communication till April 30 about how many vaccines were to be received. The state had no time to formulate a plan once 1.5 lakh vaccines were delivered, hence a subclassification was needed.”

The circular further read, “The central government had refuted on-site registration which would have affected the poor hence the Chhattisgarh government took a decision to adopt social security. However, the High Court has asked for a more planned division of vaccines, which will take time. Until then, the vaccination is postponed.

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