The Centre on Monday opposed in the Supreme Court the arguments that people are losing their jobs and rations allegedly due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates issued by various states and authorities, saying nobody is “losing anything”.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, said the aspect of vaccine mandates that are being issued by several states and other authorities is urgent as people are losing their jobs. “Right now, what is urgent is the vaccine mandate because people are losing their jobs. They are losing their rations. They are not able to move around freely as a result of these vaccine mandates,” Bhushan said.
Mehta told the bench that the petitioner has filed an application in the matter claiming that people are losing their jobs due to this. “Mr Bhushan filed an IA that many people are losing their jobs etc. Nobody is losing anything and nobody has come before your lordships,” Mehta said.
During the hearing, the bench told Bhushan that all these instances, which the petitioner is bringing to its notice, might not be possible for the court to decide because there may be numerous situations. The bench said it would hear the matter finally and then decide it.
“Today, the situation is that people are losing their jobs,” Bhushan said. The bench said there may be so many situations and specific issues can be dealt with by the respective high courts. Referring to the issue of vaccine mandates, Bhushan said various authorities are restricting all kinds of fundamental rights of the citizens by these mandates.
Bhushan said he was not arguing that vaccine mandate cannot be issued at all. He said an individual has to weigh in the pros and cons of vaccine, its benefits and then decide on it for himself or herself. He said such mandate can be issued only if there is clear evidence that not taking the vaccine makes an individual a much greater danger to others, than after taking the vaccine.
Bhushan said there is evidence to show that if a person had the infection, his or her protection from the infection is far superior than any protection that the vaccine might give. The bench said it will list the matter for hearing finally and decide it.
The apex court had in August last year asked the Centre, Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India (SII) and others to respond to the plea seeking directions for disclosure of data on clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines as also on post-jab cases. Bhushan had then told the court that it was not an “anti-vaccine petition” and transparency on the issue was needed as disclosure of data would rather clear all the doubts and hesitancy.
While making clear that petitioner was not seeking to stop the ongoing vaccination, he had said the plea has also raised the issue of coercive vaccine mandates being issued like putting certain restriction on travel if someone is not vaccinated. The bench had issued notices to the Centre and others, including Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), seeking their responses on the petition.
Bhushan had earlier said that as per sero-survey of ICMR, almost two-third of the country’s population has already had COVID and it is without any doubt that immunity gained from it is much more lasting and superior than what is gained from these vaccines.
The apex court is hearing a plea filed by Dr Jacob Puliyel, who is a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and has sought directions to also disclose post vaccination data regarding adverse events.
The plea has sought directions to make public the segregated data of clinical trials for vaccines that are being administered in India under the emergency use authorisation granted by the Drugs Controller General of India. It has also sought the apex court’s declaration that vaccine mandates, even by way of making it a pre-condition for accessing any benefits or services, are a violation of rights of citizens and is unconstitutional.
With inputs from PTI.