As regards vaccination for persons with disabilities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that the Department for Empowerment of PWD(which is under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerement) invite suggestions from stakeholders and domain experts as regards existing facilities and proposals for further upgradation, and place the same before the Health Ministry which may...
As regards vaccination for persons with disabilities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that the Department for Empowerment of PWD(which is under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerement) invite suggestions from stakeholders and domain experts as regards existing facilities and proposals for further upgradation, and place the same before the Health Ministry which may consider whether any modifications are required in the existing pattern to make it more effective.
The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a plea by Evara Foundation seeking ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities.
On Tuesday, the bench recorded that pursuant to the order of the court issuing notice, a preliminary affidavit was initially filed by the Union of India which has been followed by a more comprehensive affidavit dated 13 January 2022.
The bench recorded that during the course of the hearing, in a brief submission, Mr Pankaj Sinha, the counsel appearing for the petitioners, has highlighted certain concerns: 1. the affidavit of the union government indicates that only 23,678 persons with disabilities have been vaccinated and this figure is stated to be indicative of the vaccination for the disabled; 2. it has been submitted that the helplines which have been provided for vaccination such as '1075' and '104' do not result in a proper response and the persons who answer the call have been either unaware of the provision for Home vaccination or in some cases the number is stated to be in invalid; 3. it has been submitted that the COWIN App software should have been certified for accessibility for the PWD by domain experts.
The bench further noted that Responding to the above suggestions, Ms Aishwarya Bhati, additional solicitor general, submits that the figure of 23,678 persons reflected in the affidavit of the Union of India comprises of those persons who utilised the Unique Identity Disability cards for the purpose of availing of vaccination. The ASG submitted that as a matter of fact, as many as nine IDs are accepted for the purpose of vaccination of which the disability card is one and hence the figure of 23,678 persons would not take into account other disabled persons who may have used an alternative form of identity.
"It has been urged on behalf of the Union of India that while initially provisions have been made for near-to-home vaccination centres, but since November 2021, the union government has launched the 'Har ghar dastak abhiyan' to ensure 100% coverage of eligible beneficiaries. Moreover it has been submitted that with the provisions for walk-in registration, the registration on the COWIN portal has become of subsidiary importance. Finally it has been submitted that the staff at the call centres and helplines were expected to be duly trained by the state governments so as to facilitate proper responses", noted the bench.
The bench further observed that "the issue which has been raised by the petitioner is not adversarial since it relates to augmenting the support facilities which would ensure that vaccination to the disabled is made available on a seamless basis without unnecessary inconvenience and preferably at their doorstep".
"During the course of the hearing, individual suggestions have come before the court at the behest of the counsel. We are of the view that instead of accepting ad hoc suggestions during the course of the hearing, it should be appropriate to devise a framework with the engagement of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, particularly the Department of empowerment for persons with disabilities. In our view, it would be appropriate if the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment invites suggestions and responses from all stakeholders and domain experts in the area of disability so that a comprehensive response in regard to the existing facilities and proposals for further upgradation can be received. The Ministry may carry out this exercise within a period of three weeks and then place the comprehensive suggestions and proposals, if any, which are received before the Ministry of health and family welfare. The Secretary in the Ministry of Health may then take a considered view of the suggestions which have been formulated by the Ministry of social Justice and empowerment and take an appropriate decision whether any modifications or changes are required to make the existing pattern of vaccination for the disabled more effective so as to achieve its purpose", the bench stated in its order.
It proceeded to add, "We clarify that the setting up of this framework is not intended to be a reflection of the nature of the work which has already been carried out but it is intended to further bolster the efforts for providing seamless access of the disabled to the facilities of vaccination."
Case Title: Evara Foundation v. Union Of India And Ors.
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