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'Against Public Interest' : Madras HC Refuses To Hear PIL Challenging Vaccine Mandate For Teachers

Sebin James
22 Nov 2021 11:56 AM GMT
Against Public Interest : Madras HC Refuses To Hear PIL Challenging Vaccine Mandate For Teachers
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Madras High Court has termed a PIL challenging the compulsory double vaccination policy of the government to enter educational institutions as 'against public interest and not in the interest of the larger chunk of population'. The first bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D Audikesavalu was hearing a petition filed by Academic Resource Advancement...

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Madras High Court has termed a PIL challenging the compulsory double vaccination policy of the government to enter educational institutions as 'against public interest and not in the interest of the larger chunk of population'.

The first bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D Audikesavalu was hearing a petition filed by Academic Resource Advancement against the double vaccination mandate imposed to access schools and other educational institutions.

When the PIL was taken up for admission, Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari's first item as the Acting CJ of High Court, the bench noted:

"The vaccine mandate is there for the safety of all. You are going against public interest in this petition. Since it is a PIL, we must consider the application of equity and look at the entire situation."

The bench noted that if the teachers choose to go to schools, they must also not put the lives of their students at risk. "They must get vaccinated in the interest of students", said the High Court.

The PIL was dismissed as withdrawn and the petitioner was granted liberty to approach the court in case the teachers' service gets affected due to double vaccination mandate.

While hearing the PIL, the court enquired to the petitioner rhetorically about the Supreme Court directions to provide vaccination free of cost. "Because, it was felt that there is a need to save the public from pandemic. Justice DY Chandrachud has elaborately explained the reason behind such approach", court answered.

When the petitioner referred to Meghalaya High Court's observations on Vaccine Policy, the court replied that the order will only have a persuasive value, and what's binding upon the Madras High Court is its own judgements and the Supreme Court guidelines.

"Initially, vaccines were not free of cost. Supreme Court realised that the pandemic has taken a toll on the population.", the bench recalled that the second phase of Covid pandemic was particularly harrowing.

"Medical Science is not static. Only two vaccines are approved right now, Covaxin and Covishield. Even Covaxin, why did WHO take time to approve the vaccine? They assessed it scientifically and reached a conclusion." The court recorded that despite vaccination, there have been people who contracted Covid. However, WHO is an expert body and it is prudent to go with the mandate of an expert body. The vaccines protect the population to a large extent, including students, the court observed. The court cannot strike down a government mandate since a few teachers refuse to take vaccine, added the court.

Through our observations, we have no intention to deprecate 'pathies' other than Allopathy, the court clarified.

"It is not a question of your individual liberty alone, it's a question of individual liberty of the students as well", the bench noted.

If teachers aren't vaccinated and contract covid-19, the consequence would be that they will ultimately spread the disease among their students, the court iterated.

On the petitioner's submission regarding their service, Acting CJ MN Bhandari observed:

"You are not going to lose your service. Moreover, Supreme Court has laid down in two judgments that public interest litigations are not maintainable in service matters", the court felt that the issue in the petition has been exposed as a service matter, the petitioner can be granted liberty to withdraw instead of court dismissing it.

Case No: Academic Resource Advancement v. State Of Tamil Nadu

Case Title: WP/24530/2021 (PIL)

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