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Bombay High Court: State cannot differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens

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covid vaccination vaccine law insider

Munmun Kaur

Published On: January 14, 2022 at 10:40 IST

The Bombay High Court, on January 10 held that State cannot discriminate between the vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens.

The Court was hearing two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) which challenged the circulars issued by Maharashtra government banning unvaccinated people from traveling in local trains. They submitted that the circulars were arbitrary, discriminatory and contrary to Central Government guidelines and Supreme Court Orders.

On the other hand, the Maharashtra Chief Secretary and the health department submitted affidavits explaining why a distinction was made between people who were vaccinated against covid-19 and those who were not as far as the access to public spaces and public transportation was concerned.

The Division Bench, led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta asked, “If a decision is made by the government, state, or centre on the issue of health, to what extent can the High Court intervene and strike those decisions down?”

Advocate Nilesh Ojha argued that vaccine was not mandatory rather voluntary. Also, the State Government has no authority to issue an Order under Disaster Management Act that too in contradiction to Order issued by Central Government.

The Bench, acknowledging the fact that vaccination served as a weapon against the pandemic, concluded that, under Article 21 of the Constitution, the state, as Parens Patriae [parent of the nation], had the responsibility of caring for the entire population, regardless of vaccination status.

The Court while adjourning the hearing to next week, observed “We can’t make decisions based on our emotions. One may feel it [vaccination] is necessary, and one may not feel it is necessary. But you show authorities based on which these decisions can be challenged.”