Taking a strong stand against allowing vaccination for judges, lawyers and court staff who don’t fit into the current category of either above 60 years of age or having listed comorbidities, the Centre told the Delhi high court on Wednesday that any specific classification either based upon the nature of trade, profession or otherwise is neither possible nor advisable.
It made the submission in its affidavit filed in response to a PIL initiated by the high court to examine if those associated with judicial functioning can be treated as “frontline workers” so that they could receive Covid-19 vaccination on priority.
During the hearing, a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli pointed out that due to the pandemic, courts’ functioning has also taken a huge hit.
“Judiciary is an important wing and one of the three pillars of the state. To compare it with others is not correct. Its functioning is getting hampered. Nobody can deny that the efficiency of cases has taken a huge hit. Hundreds and thousands of people congregate here daily and everyday different people are coming. Risk of exposure is there,” the bench said.
However, it was informed by senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Bharat Biotech, that the manufacturer had moved the Supreme Court seeking to transfer all such petitions pending in high courts across India to the apex court as the issue concerns everyone. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the Centre, also urged the high court to wait till March 15 when the SC is likely to take up the plea.
Solicitor General Mehta told the high court bench that “the central government has taken this decision of classification on the basis of age, vulnerability and comorbidity. Even the executive and legislature are not entitled for vaccines right now unless they are above 60 years of age or between the age of 45 and 59 years with comorbidities.”
He said the government had prioritised vaccination based on certain fundamental, basic principles and lawyers above 60 years of age or between 45 and 59 years with comorbidities were already covered under the current vaccine policy.
“Even all doctors are not included presently. Only those doctors or health workers potentially or directly exposed to Covid-19 patients are covered,” the law officer contended, adding that eventually everyone under the age of 45 years will also be covered. A layered approach is being taken towards vaccination not just in India but also across the world, he added.
Senior advocates Vikas Singh and Ramesh Gupta, representing all the bar associations of Delhi and the Bar Council, opposed Mehta, saying lawyers work in crowded places since courts see heavy footfall but the Centre completely forgot it in its affidavit.
Delhi High Court, thereafter, posted the matter for further hearing on March 19.