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No Prohibition Imposed By Centre On States Doing Door-to-Door Vaccination : Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
15 Jun 2021 4:07 AM GMT
No Prohibition Imposed By Centre On States Doing Door-to-Door Vaccination : Bombay High Court
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The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that the Central Government has not explicitly prohibited State governments from providing door-to-door vaccination for the elderly and disabled citizens, who would not be able to visit immunization centres. Therefore, the division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked the Maharashtra Government to decide...

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The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that the Central Government has not explicitly prohibited State governments from providing  door-to-door vaccination for the elderly and disabled citizens, who would not be able to visit immunization centres.

Therefore, the division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked the Maharashtra Government to decide if it will undertake door-to-door vaccination by June 22. It added that the State need not wait for its orders to implement such guidelines if they were finalized.

On Monday, the court asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh if the Central Government had attempted to stop states like Kerala and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that have already started door-to-door vaccination.

Mr. Singh responded that the Centre said that their communications to the State against door-to-door immunization were merely guidelines/advisories that they expected States to follow.  

"From such reply of Mr.Singh, it clearly appears to us that there is no categorical prohibition imposed by the Central Government for the States to undertake a door to door vaccination programme, for the elderly and disabled citizens as described by us in paragraph one of our order dated June 9, 2021," the bench noted in its order.

During the previous hearing, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) informed the court that it had written to the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, on June 10, seeking permission to begin door-to-door vaccination.

On Monday, ASG Anil Singh informed the court that MoHFW had responded to say that they have repeatedly advised States to operationalize 'Near to Home COVID Vaccination Centres' (NHCVCs) for the needy citizens in Community Centres, Resident Welfare Association centers/offices, housing societies, colonies, panchayat ghar/offices, school and college buildings, old age homes etc. in regard to which An SOP has been issued on May 27, 2021.

The letter from MoHFW to the Municipal Commisisoner further states that  'National Experts Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19' (NEGVAC), had advised against door-to-door vaccination, and therefore the MCGM should wait for further guidelines.

However, PIL petitioner Advocate Dhruti Kapadia cited an order of the High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital to submit that even other High Courts are asking States to consider door-to-door vaccination.

Kapadia further pointed towards a news report with Maharashtra Health Minister - Rajesh Tope's – statement that the State Health Department is working on allowing home inoculation for those who are bedridden and cannot go to the vaccination centres, for which the State Task Force on vaccination is in the process of formulating protocols and guidelines.

She further cited a media report that Bikaner, in Rajasthan, is the first city in India to start door to door COVID vaccination for adults aged 45 years and above.

The bench put a specific query to Singh and ascertained that there was no bar on the States from proceeding with door-to-door vaccination.

Responding to the Court's query, Senior Advocate Anil Sakhare for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) said that MCGM would begin door-to-door vaccination if the State Government issued guidelines without waiting for a national policy.

However, State's counsel Geeta Shastri sought time to take instructions.

"We accordingly adjourn the proceedings to Tuesday next (June 22, 2021), to enable the State Government to take an appropriate decision on the issue of door to door vaccination of the elderly and disabled. In the event a decision is taken permitting door to door vaccination, prior to the adjourned date of hearing, all concerned shall be free to implement the same immediately," the bench said in its order.

The bench is hearing a PIL by two advocates Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Central and State governments to initiate a door-to-door vaccination drive for citizens above 75, persons with physical disabilities, and the immobile.

In an earlier hearing, the bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni had observed that several lives could have been saved if the Centre had a door-to-door vaccination policy for the elderly and bed-ridden a few months ago.
On May 20, the Bombay High Court granted the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19's (NEGVAC) time till June 1, 2021, to decide on a door-to-door policy for citizens who would not be able to visit vaccination centres.

In response, the Centre filed an affidavit last week, giving a five-pointer on why door-to-door vaccination was not feasible and why 'near-to-door vaccination' was a more appropriate policy.

[Dhruti Kapadia vs UOI]


 


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