‘If situation worsens, may take same decision’: Centre to SC on Covid vax mandates

The Central government on Tuesday supported state governments’ stand making Covid vaccination mandatory for using public transports, visiting malls, and attending offices.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai, that “right to die does not mean that a person has fundamental right to infect others”. He supported state governments’ stand making Covid vaccination mandatory for using public transport, visiting malls, and attending offices.

He said that if the situation were to become worse, amid the ongoing Covid pandemic, then the Central government may have to take the same decision. Mehta added that a person cannot claim taking a jab is a matter of his fundamental right, as it directly impacts the lives of other people.

The Centre’ s response came on a plea seeking directions for disclosure of data on clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines and post-jab cases, and also against vaccine mandates issued by various state governments.

The Centre, in its submissions, said: “The question raised in the petition regarding vaccines per se or validity of its mandatory application (as illustrated in some cases and in some states), is essentially a personal right. The petitioner’s prayer, in pith and substance, is for a writ of this Court not to vaccinate others.”

It added: “The petitioner wants his personal subjective views to be imposed on the rest of the country. Such a petition can never be a Public Interest Litigation. No Public Interest Litigation can have even a possible effect of harming public interest. The petitioner has categorically stated at page 5 para 1 (a) that the petitioner has no personal interest. When the petitioner is not espousing his own cause, the petition itself which is styled as a Public Interest Litigation (in absence of any personal interest), is not maintainable.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing petitioner Jacob Puliyel, had argued that whether to get vaccinated or not, is an individual decision. “Even, I had Covid. But, I have not taken the vaccine. I have decided not to take the vaccine, come what may.”

He insisted that adverse effects of Covid vaccination are not known, and questioned why governments are issuing vaccine mandates restricting people from entering public spaces by making vaccination mandatory. “If one was infected with Covid (and got cured), that person gets better natural immunity against the infection,” said Bhushan.

The top court will continue to hear arguments on March 21.

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