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Air Force Officer's Refusal To Take COVID Vaccine: Gujarat High Court Directs IAF To Consider Case Afresh, Extends Temporary Relief

Sparsh Upadhyay
12 Aug 2021 8:05 AM GMT
Air Force Officers Refusal To Take COVID Vaccine: Gujarat High Court Directs IAF To Consider Case Afresh, Extends Temporary Relief
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The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed Indian Airforce to consider the case of an IAF officer who refused to take the COVID vaccine afresh and to examine all the relevant materials placed on record.The Bench of Justice A. J. Desai and Justice A. P. Thaker was hearing the plea of Air Force Officer, Yogendra Kumar (currently posted in Gujarat's Jamnagar) who has been served a...

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed Indian Airforce to consider the case of an IAF officer who refused to take the COVID vaccine afresh and to examine all the relevant materials placed on record.

The Bench of Justice A. J. Desai and Justice A. P. Thaker was hearing the plea of Air Force Officer, Yogendra Kumar (currently posted in Gujarat's Jamnagar) who has been served a show-cause notice seeking explanation as to why his service should not be terminated for his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Court has also extended interim relief granted to him till the case is decided and has further directed that if any adverse order is passed, the same shall not be implemented for a period of two weeks from the date of service of the order to the petitioner.

"The respondent – authority shall decide the case of the petitioner as early as possible preferably within a period of four weeks hereinafter. It is needless to say that the respondent – authority shall deal with the case of the petitioner keeping in mind the submissions made by the learned counsel for the petitioner," added the Court.

Additional solicitor general Devang Vyas submitted before the Court that it is true that Covid-19 vaccination is optional for the general public, but it has been made compulsory as a policy decision for air force personnel by making it part of their service condition.

Importantly, he also submitted that only 9 personnel from the IAF from all over the country refused vaccination among whom, one officer was terminated for failing to respond to the show-cause notice served for the service condition violation.

Matter in brief

He was served with the show-cause notice in response to his personal application sent to the Commanding Officer on 26.2.2021, expressing his unwillingness for COVID-19 vaccination.

He had averred in his application that:

"I adopt allopathy medicines only in emergency or if the solution is not possible in Ayurveda… my consciousness does not allow to get vaccinated instead of using ayurvedic methods… it is my humble request that I may be excused from vaccination of Covid-19."
Moving the High Court, the petitioner has submitted that the Union of India says that the Covid19 vaccine is voluntary, and in a reply to an RTI query, the Government had said that taking the Covid Vaccines was entirely voluntary and there is no relation whatsoever to the provision of government facilities, citizenship, job, etc. to the vaccine.

In his plea, the Petitioner has submitted that he has a right to receive treatment of his choice and vaccination cannot be forced upon him.

He was served show-cause notices twice (April 29 and May 10) seeking an explanation from him on why his service should not be terminated for his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

In one of the show cause notices, the IAF has stated that:

"Your defiance verges to gross indiscipline and your continuation in the service is likely to adversely impact the health of other air warriors and AF (airforce)civilians… the AOC-in-C SWAC (Air Officer Commanding-in-chief, South Western Air Command), IAF, is of the opinion that your continuation in the disciplined force… is undesirable… you are to show cause as to why you should not be dismissed from the service in terms of Section 20(3) of the Air Force Act, 1950 read with Rule18 of the Air Force Rules, 1969…"
He has also averred before the Court that no official order in writing was issued by the IAF mandating vaccination for its personnel.

The petitioner has averred in his plea that newspaper reports in the country in past months show that many deaths and serious adverse events are reported after taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Thus, Petitioner should be allowed to choose the right to treatment under the right to life under Article 14 of the constitution of India and should not be forced to take the vaccine which can cause an adverse reaction," adds the plea.

Prayers in the plea:

  • Quashing of the show cause notice dated 10.05.21 issued by Indian Air Force to the petitioner;
  • Direct Indian Air Force to not force the petitioner to get the vaccine and to further stop issuing show-cause notice in this regard;
  • Direct Indian Air Force to not take any coercive action against the Petitioner in furtherance of the show cause notice dated 10.5.2021. i
  • Direct Indian Air Force to follow Union of India's order that the vaccine is purely voluntary and therefore no order be issued making the vaccine mandatory in Indian Air Force establishment.

The petitioner was represented by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and Advocate Aum Kotwal

Case title - Yogendra Kumar v. Indian Air Force and 1 other 

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