Can't Force People To Take Vaccine But Reasonable Restrictions Apply: SC

SC upheld one's right to refuse vaccines, but said the Centre could impose reasonable restrictions in public health interest.

The Supreme Court underscored one's right to refuse vaccines and said restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated were disproportionate. However, the top court pointed out that the Centre could impose reasonable restrictions against the unvaccinated for the protection of the larger community.

The bench observed that no data was produced on record to substantiate claims that the risk of the spread of COVID-19 from unvaccinated persons was higher than those who are vaccinated. In light of this, the vaccine mandates cannot be said to be proportionate till the infection rate remains low and new development of research emerges which justifies the mandate," the Court stated.

The restrictions should be reasonable and must meet the three-fold requirement of legality, need and proportionality as laid down in the top court's 2017 KS Puttaswamy judgment on the right to privacy.

The bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao said their observation did not extend to COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it was limited to restrictions in the "rapidly evolving situation".

In a key judgment on present COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the Supreme Court said no one could be forced to get vaccinated; Centre's vaccine policy was not arbitrary; data on vaccine trials and adverse events after immunization must be made public; and the court could not second guess expert opinion on the issue of the vaccination policy for children.

Also Read: Wearing Masks Voluntary In Maharashtra: Is It The Correct Step?

Individuals have the right to refuse vaccines

The Supreme Court said that the bodily integrity of an individual was protected by law under Article 21 and that one had the right to refuse vaccines. The court however added that the government could regulate in areas of bodily autonomy in public health interests.

Also Read: Order Banning Unvaccinated People In Trains Illegal: Bombay High Court

Centre's COVID-19 vaccine policy not unreasonable

After considering material and experts' views, the Supreme Court endorsed the Centre's vaccine policy and observed that the same cannot be said to be unreasonable. The Centre could impose reasonable restrictions in public health interests.

The bench said restrictions imposed could be open to judicial scrutiny and observed that states denying essential services and benefits to the unvaccinated were unreasonable. This means states cannot restrict people from accessing public places, services, or benefits like subsidised ration.

"Till infection numbers are low we suggest that no restriction is imposed on individuals on access to public places, services and resources. Recall the same if already done," the Supreme Court said.

Also Read: DCGI Permits Restricted Use Of Covaxin, Corbevax For 5-12 Year Olds

Centre's vaccine policy for children on lines with global standards and practices

On the issue of vaccine mandate for children, the Supreme Court observed that the court could not second guess opinions put forth by experts and the government's policy followed global standards and practices.

The top court also directed the authorities to publish reports on adverse events of vaccines as reported by the people and doctors on a publicly accessible system, without compromising data of the individuals reporting them.

"Regarding segregation of vaccine trial data, subject to the privacy of individuals, all trials already conducted and to be subsequently conducted, all data must be made available to the public without further delay," the court said.

Data of adverse reactions to be published at the earliest, it added.

Also Read: Anti-Vaccine Hashtags Go Viral As India Close To 100 Crore Doses

Updated On: 2022-05-02T12:39:16+05:30
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