Breaking: Denying Livelihood To People By Linking Their Employment To Their Getting Vaccinated Is Illegal: Manipur High Court

Restraining people who are yet to get vaccinated from opening institutions, organizations, factories, shops, etc., or denying them their livelihood by linking their employment, be it NREGA job cardholders or workers in Government or private projects, to their getting vaccinated would be illegal on the part of the State

Update: 2021-07-15 07:56 GMT

The Manipur High Court has ruled that denying livelihood by linking employment of people to their getting vaccinated is an illegal act of the State and that such a measure would trample upon the freedom of the individual to get vaccinated or choose not to do so.The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh ruled thus:"Restraining people who are yet to get vaccinated...

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The Manipur High Court has ruled that denying livelihood by linking employment of people to their getting vaccinated is an illegal act of the State and that such a measure would trample upon the freedom of the individual to get vaccinated or choose not to do so.

The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh ruled thus:

"Restraining people who are yet to get vaccinated from opening institutions, organizations, factories, shops, etc., or denying them their livelihood by linking their employment, be it NREGA job cardholders or workers in Government or private projects, to their getting vaccinated would be illegal on the part of the State."

The matter before the Court

The Court was hearing a PIL petition challenging the Notification dated 30th June, 2021, issued by the Home Department, Government of Manipur, which stated that the State Government proposed to relax curfew/containment zone orders in the future in a calibrated manner by assessing the Covid infection scenario.

Further, it said that while opening up, without compromising public health safety, the Government considered it prudent to prioritize the opening of institutions, organizations, factories, shops, markets, private offices, etc., where employees and workers were Covid vaccinated.

The Government further stated that this would also apply to NREGA job cardholders and workers of Government/ private projects.

Court's observations

Prima facie, the Court found that the notification was an attempt to make vaccination mandatory as it favored those who are vaccinated, not only in terms of prioritizing the opening up of their institutions, organizations, etc., but also by linking vaccination as a condition precedent for employment of NREGA job cardholders and workers in Government and private projects.

Further, the Court opined that the notification of the Government of Manipur was in accordance 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.

However, the Court further observed that the ground reality is quite different as there is abounding ignorance amongst the people as to the side effects of the vaccination and in consequence, apprehensions of the risks that may ensue upon being vaccinated.

Significantly, the Court opined:

"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."

However, the Additional Advocate General, Manipur, submitted that the impugned notification was 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.

To this, the Court, by way of abundant caution, made it clear that the impugned notification shall not be given effect to, even if the State resorts to any further relaxations, until the next date of hearing and sought the reply of the State to properly explaining the situation. 

In related news, the Meghalaya High Court recently held that mandatory or forceful vaccination does not find any force in law and hence are to be declared as ultra vires ab initio.

To ensure that people have an "informed choice" with respect to vaccination, the Meghalaya High Court issued a slew of directions to the State Government in respect of vaccination of all shops, establishments, local taxis etc.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice HS Thangkhiew observed thus:

"Article 21 encompasses within its fold, right to health, as a fundamental right. By that same analogy, right to health care, which includes vaccination, is a fundamental right. However, 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."

Case title - Osbert Khaling v. State of Manipur; & 2 ors.

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