The Kerala High Court set aside its September 3 order allowing individuals to schedule take their second dose of paid Covishield vaccine after four weeks instead of the present mandate of 84 days.
The high court observed that flouting the Centre's vaccine policy would be detrimental to the interest of the nation. Individual freedom and preference on vaccine policy must give way to the larger interest of society, the Kerala High Court said while setting aside the order passed by its single judge.
The order passed by the single judge would have national implications which would derail or upset the activities controlled and regulated by the Central and State Governments and would be quite detrimental to the interest of the nation, the division bench led by high court Chief Justice S Manikumar said.
On September 3, Justice PB Suresh Kumar directed the Centre to tweak the CoWin portal to allow individuals to schedule their second dose of the paid Covishield vaccine four weeks after their first dose as opposed to the current 84-day waiting period between the two doses.
No scope for individual preference against the interest of the nation
The high court accepted the Centre's vaccination policy which was not an executive decision but rather based on scientific data. The bench observed that once the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is invoked by the Government, the individual freedom and interest may have given way to the interest of the citizens of the country at large.
"…Failing which, the Government would not be in a position to manage, coordinate, and implement the measures and activities taken for protecting the rights and liberties of the citizens at large, rather than self-centric and individual protection of the rights," the order read.
The division bench was of the view that the Centre's imposition of the 84-day waiting period between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine was in terms of scientific and expert advice. Thus the high court cannot interfere with this expert decision, the bench said. "…it is not for the Constitutional Courts, to analyse the intrinsic aspects of the same, in order to arrive at a different conclusion, which is also impermissible in law," the order read.
The court observed that guidelines based on scientific study cannot be substituted by a judgment of the Constitutional Courts, especially in the absence of materials to prove that such advise was hasty, bad or ill-advised.
Once it was established that the Centre's policy was based on scientific and expert advise, it was upto the government on how to implement the same to get rid of the emergent COVID 19 pandemic situation, the high court observed.
The high court pointed out that even though individuals or organisations can privately purchase and administer vaccines through hospitals, the Centre still controls and regulates the same through the CoWin Portal. This itself is a clear indicator that no citizen can be permitted to activate the process of administering the vaccine on individual interest," the high court concluded.