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COVID Vaccination To Persons With Disabilities And Pregnant Women: Supreme Court Asks Petitioners To Submit Concrete Suggestions

Mehal Jain
3 Dec 2021 1:29 PM GMT
COVID Vaccination To Persons With Disabilities And Pregnant Women: Supreme Court Asks Petitioners To Submit Concrete Suggestions
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On a plea seeking ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities, the Supreme Court on Friday granted liberty to the petitioners to formulate concrete suggestions to strengthen the existing framework for protecting the disabled citizens in ensuring that they have proper access to vaccination against COVID-19.The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna required that the...

On a plea seeking ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities, the Supreme Court on Friday granted liberty to the petitioners to formulate concrete suggestions to strengthen the existing framework for protecting the disabled citizens in ensuring that they have proper access to vaccination against COVID-19.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna required that the same may be mailed to the court-master and also to ASG Aishwarya Bhati, for the Union of India, so that "they can be the subject matter of deliberation and the existing framework for vaccination of the disabled may be suitably strengthened by incorporating additional safeguards or facilities."
The bench recorded, "A preliminary affidavit has been filed on behalf of the Union of India. The writ petition under Article 32 raises important concerns with regard to facilities for vaccination for the disabled. Bearing in mind the provisions of the RPWD Act, 2016, including those of reasonable accommodation which are embodied in section 5 of the Act, and in view of the contents of the affidavit which has been filed on behalf of the Union of India, we are of the considered view that it would be appropriate to grant liberty to the petitioners to formulate any concrete suggestions to strengthen the existing framework for protecting the disabled citizens, in ensuring that they have proper access to vaccination against COVID-19. It has been agreed among the counsel on the side of the petitioners to, after due consultation, prepare a set of suggestions which can be emailed to (email ID of the court-master). A copy of the suggestions shall also be emailed to ASG Aishwarya Bhati. Once the suggestions are emailed, they can be the subject matter of deliberation and the existing framework for vaccination of the disabled may be suitably strengthened by incorporating additional safeguards or facilities."
Initially, Justice Chandrachud had suggested to the advocates for the petitioners, "This is a very genuine petition because many of you belong to the group of disabled. On the basis of the affidavit of the government of India, if you have any concrete suggestions as to what can be done better for the rights of the disabled, and if you forward those suggestions to Ms. Bhati, we can have it examined by the government of India so that they can see where the policy needs to be strengthened or if any further concrete steps need to be taken."
"I bow down. This is not adversarial", said the ASG.
Senior Advocate Pankaj Sinha, for one of the petitioners, submitted, "They have issued an advisory on September 22 but with respect to this advisory, there is no concrete evidence that they are starting any awareness generation programmes. They have stated that awareness generation programmes have been started but we do not see any advertisement. When I was seeing their letter of June 11, they have specified a number- '104'- where I can seek any information. But this number is not reachable, it does not work. Even if I give them suggestions, they may remain only on the paper because whatever they have said also they are not implementing."
At this, Justice Chandrachud said, "Alternatively, if you can sit down and chalk out what the concrete suggestions are, we will record your suggestions in our order and say that these are the concrete suggestions you have made which may be considered by the union government in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to provide relief to the disabled in the matters of vaccination, and see if they can be incorporated in the policy by strengthening the policy or making some additional provisions. Apply your mind and email them to the Court Master and file them in the court and give a copy to Ms. Bhati. Talk to some of the organisations which are doing work in this field- as to what are the Primary difficulties which have emerged as regards to vaccination for the disabled. Then we will have the government examine these suggestions and see to what extent they can be incorporated in the policy. The RPWD Act does speak of reasonable accommodation."
"Wherever we can strengthen it, we will follow it", assured the ASG.
The reliefs sought in the petition are-
(1) the facility to be vaccinated at their homes, to the extent feasible
(2) preference in scheduling for vaccination
(3) a dedicated helpline for this purpose, in addition to COWIN
(4) accessibility to vaccination centres
On Friday, the bench passed an identical order on a writ petition filed by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights raising the issue of COVID vaccination for pregnant and lactating women.
Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover, for the petitioner, advanced that there are shortcomings in the preliminary affidavit of the Union of India in response to the notice.
"Should we pass the same order here? These issues require a deliberative dialogue. Your clients have worked on the ground, if you can formulate the ideas and share with Ms. Bhati so that they can see if something for that can be done?", put Justice Chandrachud to Ms. Grover.
"The averments in the affidavit are very Generic statements- that we will conduct 'studies'", submitted Ms. Grover.
"You can clarify what is the particular study to be done", said Justice Chandrachud
"If they have any data, they can place it on record so that we know what research has been commenced", said Ms. Grover.
"The Research would also be at a very nascent stage. I am not sure if they can have data which they can share without collecting full data", said Justice Chandrachud.
"I am not talking about data of the research. But they can tell us what is the broad framework of the research, will it will cover all women? The reason why this research needs to be carried out together with regular monitoring is because because this is uncharted territory . As the research develops, scientists and doctors can take advantage of it", replied Ms. Grover.
"The vaccination for pregnant and lactating women started much later. We are monitoring for adverse impact after vaccination. There may not be enough research data before that. But whatever efforts are need for strengthening, we are here and we will take it forward", assured the ASG.
"I may also develop adverse effects when I go back home. But there is absolutely no system in place for this!", urged Ms. Grover.
The bench then proceeded to pass the identical order calling for concrete suggestions from the petitioner, asking for the reference to the RPWD Act in the previous order to be excluded and "disabled citizens" to be replaced by "pregnant and lactating women" in this order.
"The petition under Article 32 has been instituted by DCPCR. Ms Grover for DCPCR submits that petition was instituted in May 2021 during 2nd CoVID wave & subsequently operational guidelines have been framed by the Union of India for pregnant & lactating mothers. Nonetheless the petitioner has some concern which can be appropriately taken care of by the government. Issue notice to the Union of India. The Learned Solicitor General is required to assist the court on the policy which has been formulated & applicable guidelines that are to be framed", the bench had noted in its order of September 20, issuing notice on the petition.

Case Title: Evara Foundation v. Union Of India And Ors.; Delhi Commission For Protection Of Child Rights v. Union Of India And Anr.

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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