Curbs on unvaccinated violate rights: Gauhati HC
The Gauhati high court has observed that restrictions imposed by the Mizoram government on movement and work of persons who are yet to get vaccinated for Covid-19 were arbitrary and violated the provisions of the Constitution of India.
“The restrictions placed upon unvaccinated individuals vis-à-vis vaccinated individuals are arbitrary and not in consonance with the provisions of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution,” the Aizwal bench of high court said in its order on Friday.
Articles 14, 19 and 21 are part of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution of India. Article 14 promises equality before law, Article 19 guarantees protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. while Article 21 talks about protection of life and personal liberty. Article 19 also includes the right to practice any profession and to move freely throughout India.
A division bench of justices Michael Zothankhuma and Nelson Sailo passed the order on Friday while acting on a petition against standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued last week by the Mizoram government restricting movement of unvaccinated persons.
“Allowances available and given to vaccinated persons in the above clauses shall also be made equally applicable to unvaccinated persons,” the bench said while directing the state government to issue a corrigendum of the SOPs declared on June 29, at the earliest.
The next date of hearing in the case is on July 14.
The SOPs issued on June 29 by Mizoram chief secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo had included a provision that stated, “Only vaccinated individuals of the family members may be detailed for errands within and around localities having significant Covid19 active cases.”
The SOPs also said that only vaccinated persons should be engaged in manning stores, shops or undertaking any works. Store attendants and other employees should be able to produce proof of vaccination. Only those drivers and conductors of commercial passenger vehicles who have been vaccinated should be allowed to operate public transport, according to the SOPs.
“A perusal of the above clauses implies that all persons would require to be vaccinated or else they cannot leave their houses or earn their livelihood. The question that would arise…is whether a person can be vaccinated against his will and whether the non-vaccination of the said individual can debar him from earning his livelihood,” the court observed.
“Though the state can make a law imposing reasonable restrictions in the exercise of any of the rights under Article 19, so long as the said restriction is a reasonable restriction… the above-mentioned clauses do not appear to be reasonable,” the HC bench added.
In his submission before the court, the additional advocate general of Mizoram, C Zoramchhana, stated that 519,452 individuals (67% of eligible population) have been administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the state against the target of 775,106 people. He, however, could not say how long it would take to vaccinate all eligible people with the first dose.
“There is nothing to show that vaccinated persons (first dose) cannot be infected with coronavirus, or they cannot be spreaders. As the vaccinated and unvaccinated persons would have to follow the Covid proper behaviour protocols as per the SOP, there is no justification for discrimination,” the order read.
“The unvaccinated citizens of the state can’t be faulted, due to the state’s failure in not completing the vaccination of the targeted population,” it added.
Mizoram has been reporting over 200 daily new Covid-19 cases for the past few days and the test positivity rate (TPR) in the state on Saturday was recorded at 6.75%, according to the state health department bulletin.