The Chhattisgarh High Court today observed that the State Government's policy for inoculating only "Antyodaya Card" holders against the Covid-19 virus is prima facie unsustainable.
A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Parth Prateem Sahu observed,
"If any priority is to be given for vaccination by effecting subclassification, is it not necessary to have it with reference to the areas where maximum spread of the disease is located or with reference to the population or the chance to get infected more or with reference to any particular place or area or group where more vulnerable people work/reside and the chance to get infected?"
It stated that amid the second wave of Covid-19 which is indiscrimantely affecting the younger generation as well, sub-classification with reference only to the 'financial status' alone as may not be correct or sustainable. It thus asked the State to frame a better policy, wherein ratio of vaccines to be given to Antyodaya Card Holders, BPL Card Holders and Above Poverty Line people can be fixed.
The order stated,
"A Scheme has to be formulated by the State by earmarking appropriate share of the vaccines to them as well and set up 'Help Desks' providing spot registration and to administer vaccines to them, without compromising the right of the other segments who are entitled to have equal treatment with regard to the right to life.
We are of the view that the State Government shall fix a reasonable ratio of allotment of vaccines to the 'Antyodaya Group', the persons belonging to the 'Below Poverty Line' and the persons belonging to the 'Above Poverty Line', with reference to all the relevant aspects including the vulnerability, chance to spread the disease and the number of eligible persons in the group."
The development comes in an intervention application filed by Advocate Himanshu Chaubey in the suo motu case registered by the High Court for addressing the issues being faced by the residents of the state, during the pandemic.
Chaubey argued that the impugned circular dated April 30, 2021, issued in the pretext of 'social justice' is violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution inasmuch as it is not based on any reasonable classification.
"No intelligible differentia exists between the Antyodaya Card Holders and the other residents of the State of Chhattisgarh… The Object as sought to be achieved by the Vaccination Drive is to vaccinate as many willing citizens as possible, because the COVID-19 Pandemic does not see caste, creed or class. It affects everyone equally," the application states.
He also argued that the impugned policy is leading to absurdity since the intended beneficiaries are not even availing the benefit, leading to wastage of vaccine.
In this regard, Chaubey alleges that when he visited the vaccination Centre, not a single person was present to get himself vaccinated. Further, on enquiring from the officers deployed there, he found that even though dosage for 80 people was supplied at that centre, only 3 people had turned up since morning.
Chaubey further pointed out that the State's decision is contrary to the Central Government's "Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy".
The Centre has permitted Covid-19 vaccination of all persons above the age of 18. It is argued that the State is obligated to follow guidelines issued by the Centre, as per provisions of the Disaster Management Act, and no derogation can be made thereof.
During the hearing, the Court asked the Advocate General if State has any power to meddle with the guidelines issued by the Centre. It opined that if any steps are taken by the State Government to extend benefit to such, the object behind it cannot be doubted. However, such step have necessarily to be in conformity with the constitutional mandate and in tune with the guidelines issued by the Central Government at the national level.
The matter is fixed for April 7, 2021.
Case Title: Suo Motu PIL v. State of Chhattisgarh & Ors.