Shillong ( Meghalaya), June 24 :Meghalaya High Court today said that Covid vaccination should never affect a major fundamental right – right to life, personal liberty and livelihood, especially when there was no reasonable nexus between vaccination and prohibition of continuance of occupation or profession.
The observation was made following multiple hearings of a PIL, filed suo motu, after the Deputy Commissioners (District Magistrates) in the state had issued separate orders which said shopkeepers, vendors, cabbies etc would be allowed to resume their businesses only if vaccinated.
The court also observed that Article 21 encompasses within its fold, right to health, as a fundamental right. Therefore , right to healthcare, which includes vaccination, is a fundamental right.
But vaccination by force or being made mandatory by adopting coercive methods vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it,” the court observed.
“It impinges on the fundamental rights as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood which makes it possible for a person to live…Right to life includes right to the means of livelihood. Any action of the State which is in absolute derogation of this basic principle is squarely affected by Article 19(1)(g),” the court observed .
It also said , Article 19(6) prescribes “reasonable restrictions” in the “interest of general public”, the present instance was exemplary and clearly distinguishable.
“It affects an individual’s right, choice and liberty significantly more than affecting the general public as such, or for that matter, the latter’s interests being at stake because of the autonomous decision of an individual human being of choosing not to be vaccinated. It is more about striking the right balance between an individual’s right vis-à-vis the right of the public at large,” the court said .
The High Court has also asked all shops, business houses and commercial vehicles in the state to put on display the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees at a “conspicuous” place to allow people make a conscious decision before using their services.
The court also stated , “At the outset, it must be stated clearly and unequivocally that vaccination is need of the hour – nay, an absolute necessity – in order to overcome this global pandemic which is engulfing our world.”
It directed shops and business establishments to display “vaccinated” prominently at a conspicuous place only if the employees have taken the jab.
Similarly, in the case of local taxis, auto-rickshaws, cabs and buses, the court asked the owner to put up a sign with the vaccination status of drivers, conductors or helpers.
The bench, which has Justice HS Thangkhiew as its other member, further said that the dimension of the “vaccinated” or “not vaccinated” signboard, and the place where it could be affixed will be decided by the official concerned.
If any service provider flouts the above directions, the state authorities shall immediately “direct its closure or stoppage of plying”, the division bench said in its order.
The court underscored that the Meghalaya government should be able to address the issue and inoculate all eligible persons within time frame.
“This Court shall monitor this issue closely so that the state government is able to overcome the vaccine hesitation problem at the earliest and all eligible persons in the state of Meghalaya are vaccinated well within the timeframe as may be specified by the state.”
( With PTI inputs )