No justification in discrimination of non-vaccinated persons: Gauhati High Court

The Gauhati High Court on Monday observed that even a vaccinated Covid infected person can be a super-spreader and ruled that the Mizoram government’s standard operating procedures debarring unvaccinated people from venturing out or eke out a living is akin to putting them under house arrest against the provisions of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.


(Representational Image: IFP)

 

The Gauhati High Court on Friday stated that restrictions placed upon non-vaccinated persons only on the ground of non-vaccination is unreasonable and arbitrary and not in consonance with the provisions of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

A division bench of Justice Michael Zothankhum and Justice Nelson Sailo observed that there is nothing to show that the vaccinated persons (first dose) cannot be infected with COVID-19 or that they cannot be spreaders.

The Mizoram government’s standard operating procedures debarring unvaccinated people from venturing out or eke out a living is akin to putting them under house arrest against the provisions of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the Gauhati High Court stated.

The court opined that there can be any number of reasons for a person to leave their house, for example, it could be for the purpose of procuring essential supplies, like food-stuff, medicines, attending to their near and dear/sick ones etc.

However, the SOPs and notice issued by Mizoram government has virtually put them under house arrest in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, while persons who have been given the first dose of vaccine are allowed to leave their houses/compounds, and therefore, on the ground of discrimination alone, Clause 5 (2) is arbitrary, the division bench observed.

When the SOPs requires all persons to cover their faces and to adhere to covid protocols as mentioned in the SOPs, there should not be any discrimination against un-vaccinated persons, as the Covid protocols are also applicable to un-vaccinated persons, it stated.

It stated that the SOPs mentioned that persons who have been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine are allowed to earn their livelihood, but not the unvaccinated persons.

If the vaccinated person and unvaccinated person cover their face with a mask, as per the Covid behaviour protocols laid down by the state, there is no reason to discriminate only against unvaccinated persons, it observed.

The court observed that even persons who have been vaccinated can still be infected with the Covid virus, which would in turn imply that vaccinated persons, who are Covid positive, can also spread the said virus to others.

It is not the case that vaccinated persons cannot be infected with the Covid virus or are incapable of spreading the virus. Thus, even a vaccinated Covid infected person can be a superspreader, the court observed.

If both vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons can be infected by the Covid virus and if they can both be spreaders of the virus, the restriction placed only upon the unvaccinated persons, debarring them from earning their livelihood or leaving their houses to obtain essential items is unjustified, grossly unreasonable and arbitrary, the court stated.

As the vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons would have to follow the Covid proper behaviour protocols as per the SOPs, there is no justification for discrimination, it observed.

The SOPs provide that vaccinated persons who are employed in shops/stores and transport/commercial vehicles should wear masks and adhere to all proper Covid protocols. If a non-vaccinated person is to be made to adhere to the same protocols, there can be no difference in the work of vaccinated or unvaccinated persons, the court observed. Therefore, the restriction placed upon non-vaccinated persons only due to their non-vaccination is unreasonable and arbitrary, it stated.

The High Court stated that since the SOPs require all persons to adhere to the same protocols, there should not be any discrimination against non-vaccinated people as the protocols are also applicable to them as well.

Meanwhile in Manipur, the chairperson, State Executive Committee of the State Disaster Management Authority had extended curfew orders on June 11, with more relaxations in the districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur, Thoubal, Kakching, Churachandpur and Ukhrul.

The state government stated that it will relax the curfew or containment zone orders in the future in a calibrated manner by assessing the COVID infection scenario in the state.

First Published:July 6, 2021, 11:06 a.m.

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