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PIL To Prioritize COVID-19 Vaccination For Disabled: Delhi High Court Seeks Centre & State Govt's Response

Sparsh Upadhyay
5 May 2021 1:54 PM GMT
PIL To Prioritize COVID-19 Vaccination For Disabled: Delhi High Court Seeks Centre & State Govts Response
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Dealing with a PIL petition seeking priority vaccination for persons with disabilities (PWD), the Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Union Ministry of Health and the Delhi government. The Bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notices on a plea filed by two disabled persons through advocates Siddharth Seem and Joicy. One of...

Dealing with a PIL petition seeking priority vaccination for persons with disabilities (PWD), the Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Union Ministry of Health and the Delhi government.

The Bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notices on a plea filed by two disabled persons through advocates Siddharth Seem and Joicy.

One of the petitioners has Kypho Scoliosis as well as polio left shoulder and is a social activist, while the second petitioner has mixed cerebral palsy quadriplegia which has left her with 90% permanent physical impairment.

Averments in the plea

The PIL has been filed seeking directions to the Respondents to treat persons with disabilities on a priority basis and to make special provisions for them for administering the vaccine for Covid-19, in terms of the mandate under Section 25 (1) and Section 8 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ("RPWD") Act, 2016.

The plea states that:

  • Persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to contracting the virus, as they are unable to follow measures such as social distancing, if they need care-takers, or wearing a mask, such as for persons with cerebral palsy, autism, or any developmental disability.
  • Persons with disabilities face more severe symptoms and a higher mortality rate due to Covid-19 compared to other persons.
  • Persons with disabilities depend upon medical assistance which has been strained during the pandemic and therefore they suffer from poorer health during the pandemic, whether or not they are infected with Covid-19.

Importantly, the plea avers that Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India require that persons with disabilities are given preferential treatment in access to healthcare to prevent an indirect discrimination due to unequal access to the healthcare infrastructure.

Therefore, it adds that

"By failing to make special provision and providing for preferential treatment for persons with disabilities in the administering of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Respondents are in violation of the constitutional mandate."

It also states that the protocols and guidelines for vaccine administration issued by the Respondents which fail to mention the special needs of all persons with disabilities are, therefore, further in violation of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.

"Therefore, by treating persons with disabilities at par with persons without disabilities is a violation of the right to equality as well as right to life of persons with disabilities," the plea adds.

Prayers in the plea

  • Direction to the Respondents to treat all persons with disabilities that qualify as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 on priority basis for administering the Covid-19 vaccine irrespective of their age;
  • Direction to the Respondents to administer Covid-19 vaccine to all consenting persons with disabilities along with their caretakers irrespective of their age free of charge;
  • Direction to provide Covid-19 vaccination to all consenting persons with disabilities along with their caretakers at their own home free of charge;
  • Special counters at all Covid-19 vaccination centers dedicated for persons with disabilities be established that should be accessible;
  • Direction to the Respondents to proactively contact persons with disabilities as per the record maintained by the District Disaster Management Authority constituted under Section 25 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to register consenting persons for Covid19 vaccination, and to update the records if they are not updated;
  • Direction to the Respondents to make provision for persons with disabilities and their care-takers to register for the Covid-19 vaccination through the missed call to ensure that persons without digital access can register for the vaccine;
  • Provide on-the-spot registration at 35 the Covid-19 vaccination centers to all persons with disabilities and their caretakers without having to register on the COWIN app or any other online or offline method;
  • Carry out vaccination drives in institutions for abandoned and destitute persons with disabilities run by Government and NGOs;
  • Carry out vaccination drives in mental health institutions and psychiatric nursing homes run by Government, private as well as NGOs.
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