PIL filed in High Court against Government notice prioritising vaccinated persons

'Govt notification violates Constitution, discriminates unvaccinated people at large'

Manipur High Court (PHOTO: IFP)

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the High Court of Manipur challenging a notification of the state government giving priority to vaccinated persons while relaxing Covid-19 restrictions.

The PIL was filed by an Advocate and Social activist, with a plea for setting aside the para 2 of the notification terming it illegal.

On June 30, the Home department issued a notification that the state government proposes to relax curfew/containment zone orders in the future in a calibrated manner by assessing the Covid infection scenario and while opening up, without compromising public health safety, the government considered it prudent to prioritise opening of institutions, organisations, factories, shops, markets, private offices, etc., where employees and workers were Covid vaccinated. The government further stated that the order would also apply to NREGA job card holders and workers of government and private projects. 

The petitioner stated that the state government’s notification is clearly in violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India wherein unvaccinated people are being discrimination at large by prioritising the vaccinated people by the Government of Manipur.

The petition stated that there is nothing to show that vaccinated persons cannot be infected with the deadly virus or they cannot be spreaders. If both cover their faces with a mask as per Covid protocols, there is no reason to discriminate against the unvaccinated people, it stated. Such notification debars the basic fundamental rights of the people which are Right to Live and Right to Livelihood, it added.  

The petition claimed that the notification issued by the Home department notification seems to make vaccination mandatory as they favour those who are vaccinated, not only in terms of prioritising the opening up of their institutions, organisations, etc., but also by linking vaccination as a condition precedent for employment of NREGA job card holders and workers in government and private projects.

The notice was issued in keeping with the policy of the Central Government, seeking to promote Covid vaccinations. The objective of the government is to ensure a degree of immunity in the people, at least to the extent of preventing dire consequences, if infected, it stated.  

However, the ground reality is that there is abounding ignorance amongst the people as to the side effects, if any, of the vaccination and in consequence, apprehensions of the risks that may ensue upon being vaccinated, added the petitioner.

It is for the state government to dispel such fears by educating people as to the advantages of getting vaccinated and erase their apprehension of the adverse consequences of getting vaccinated. “Without addressing this issue, the state cannot seek to impose conditions upon the citizens so as to compel them to get vaccinated, be it by holding out a threat or by putting them at a disadvantage for failing to get vaccinated,” it stated.

The petitioner further held that restraining the people who are yet to get vaccinated from opening institutions, organisations, factories, shops, etc., or denying them their livelihood by linking their employment, be it NREGA job card holders or workers in government or private projects, to their getting vaccinated would be illegal on the part of the State, if not unconstitutional. Such a measure would also trample upon the freedom of the individual to get vaccinated or choose not to do so, it stated.

It is learnt that the additional advocate general Manipur S Rupachandra informed the court that the notification is merely an expression of intention by the government as to what it proposes to do once relaxation of the curfew/containment zone orders is resorted to. 

Rupachandra asserted that the voiced intention of the government will not be acted upon till such an event comes to pass and prayed that he may be given an opportunity to file a reply properly explaining the situation.

Subsequently, the court asked the respondents to file a reply by June 27 before the next hearing due to be held on July 28. 

In the meantime, the court ordered that Paragraph 2 of the “impugned” notification shall not be given effect to, even if the state resorts to any further relaxations, until the next date of hearing.

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First Published:July 14, 2021, 11 p.m.

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