Sensitize People About Vaccination Benefits Instead of ‘Forcing’ Them: Meghalaya HC
The Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday observed that even though vaccinations are the need of the hour during the pandemic, “forcing” people to get vaccinated violates their Constitutional rights.
The court’s observations came in response to the Meghalaya government’s decision that mandates vendors, drivers, and other business owners get vaccinated before they resumed work.
The bench, comprising Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew, observed that “clearly and unequivocally that vaccination is need of the hour — nay, an absolute necessity — in order to overcome this global pandemic which is engulfing our world.”
Yet, the court clarified that taking away citizens’ fundamental rights, such as the right to livelihood, if they don’t get vaccinated was a violation of Article 19 that guarantees citizens freedom under the Indian constitution.
“…Vaccination by force or being made mandatory by adopting coercive methods, vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it. It impinges on the fundamental right(s) as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood which makes it possible for a person to live,” the bench added.
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Meghalaya is not the only state to attempt aggressive measures to combat vaccine hesitancy. Recently, the Gujarat government has also asked businesses to take the Covid19 vaccine or face shutdowns. Previously the Gujarat High Court also granted relief to an Indian Air Force corporal who was served a show-cause notice by the IAF for his refusal to take the vaccine.
While the government was attempting to protect people, its policy was “palpably excessive owing to the procedure adopted by it,” the Meghalaya High Court said in the current case.
In the end, the burden of sensitizing citizens and facilitating informed decision-making lies on the state, the court noted. Awareness campaigns and outreach about the vaccination remain critical to combatting vaccine hesitancy.
In an attempt to encourage business owners and vendors to take the vaccine, the court ordered that “all shops/establishments/local taxis/auto-rickshaws/maxi cabs and buses should display prominently at a conspicuous place, a sign, “VACCINATED,” in the event all employees and staff of the concerned shop/establishment are vaccinated.” In case all of them are not vaccinated, the sign should say “NOT VACCINATED.”