HC registers PIL on vaccination of judges, lawyers and court staff
New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday registered a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to examine the issue of Covid vaccination for members of the judiciary, employees, court staff and advocates.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli took note of a communication sent by the chairman of Bar Council of Delhi (BCD), Ramesh Gupta who had sought directions to the concerned administrative/ medical authorities to make available necessary infrastructure in court premises, particularly in medical dispensaries and other “appropriate places conducive for vaccination”.
The lawyers’ body had also sought vaccination of the members of the judiciary, the employees/staff working in the courts, as well as the advocates who throng the courts to attend to their cases, by treating them as well, as frontline workers.
The court accepted the contention of the BCD and said that “prima facie there is weight in the claim made by them for declaring all persons associated with the judicial functioning, which includes the Judges, the court Staff and the lawyers as frontline workers, so that they could receive vaccination on priority, and without limitations of their age or physical condition”.
The court issued notices to the Centre, ministry of health and family welfare, and the two vaccine manufacturers -- the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
The bench said that there is a clear pattern emerging that the number of Covid-19 cases increases with greater intermingling and congregation of people. It noted that the premises of the Delhi high court and some of the district courts are air-conditioned and with increased footfall, there is likelihood of the rate of infection amongs those who attend the courts spiking, once the full-fledged physical functioning of courts in Delhi resumes.
“We may observe that the co-morbidities enlisted by the government to accommodate persons falling in the age group of 45 to 60 years, are serious conditions from which the Judges, the court staff and advocates may, or may not, be suffering.
“Even if, they are not found to be suffering from one of the co-morbidities, it does not mean that the risk of their contracting the disease and suffering serious health issues – including fatality, does not exist. To examine the aforesaid aspects, we are inclined to register this communication of Ramesh Gupta, chairman, Bar Council of Delhi dated March 1 as a Public Interest Litigation,” the bench said in its order.
It said that the need of the hour is to vaccinate the masses on a war footing so as to secure the life and health of all those who step out of their homes to attend to their avocations and professions. It said that courts, by their very nature, are places which have very high density congregations of people on a daily basis.
“Hundreds and thousands of cases are listed in any given court complex every day. Apart from judges, the court staff – which is substantial, and advocates – who have to attend to their respective cases, and a large number of litigants visit courts in which their cases are listed, on a daily basis. Since, the cases listed on any given day are mostly different from those listed on the previous day, or the next day, the litigants visiting the Courts constitute a different group from day to day to a great extent,” it said.
It asserted that such peculiarity exposes the judges, court staff, and the lawyers functioning in the court system to the risk of contracting the disease from not only each other, but also from the large number of litigants who visit the courts every day to attend to their cases.
“In fact, the number of persons visiting a court complex – such as the Tiz Hazari courts on any given day, may well be in excess of the number of persons visiting and thronging the hospital for treatment of patients,” it said citing an example.
The matter will be now heard on March 4.