GUWAHATI: The Manipur High Court has held that restraining people, who are yet to get jabbed, from earning a livelihood is an illegal act of the State.
“Restraining people, who are yet to get vaccinated from opening institutions, organizations, factories, shops, etc., or denying them their livelihood by linking their employment, be it NREGA job cardholders or workers in government or private projects, to their getting vaccinated would be illegal on the part of the State, if not unconstitutional,” a two-judge bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh ruled.
Such a measure would also trample upon the freedom of an individual to get vaccinated or choose not to do so, the bench said.
The court was hearing a PIL that challenged a notification of the state’s Home Department which said the government proposed to relax curfew/containment zone orders in the future in a calibrated manner by assessing the Covid infection scenario.
The notification said while opening up, the government, without compromising public health safety, considered it prudent to prioritize opening of institutions, organizations, factories, shops, markets, private offices, etc., where employees and workers were Covid vaccinated. The government further stated that this would also apply to NREGA job cardholders and workers of government/private projects.
The court, however, observed that the “prescriptions” appeared to make vaccination mandatory as they favour those who are vaccinated, not only in terms of prioritizing the opening up of their institutions, organizations, etc. but also by linking vaccination as a condition precedent for employment of NREGA job cardholders and workers in government and private projects.
“…The objective of the government is to ensure a degree of immunity in the people, at least to the extent of preventing dire consequences, if infected. However, the ground reality is that there is abounding ignorance amongst the people as to the side effects, if any, of the vaccination and in consequence, apprehensions of the risks that may ensue upon being vaccinated,” the court said.
It further said that it is for the state government to dispel such fears by educating people on the advantages of vaccination and erase their apprehension on the adverse consequences of getting vaccinated.
“Without addressing this issue, the State cannot seek to impose conditions upon the citizens so as to compel them to get vaccinated, be it by holding out a threat or by putting them at a disadvantage for failing to get vaccinated,” the court said.
Additional Advocate General, who represented the state government, told the court the impugned notification was merely an expression of intention by the government on what it proposed to do once relaxation of curfew/containment zone orders are resorted to.