No individual can be forced to get vaccinated: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Monday said no individual can be forced to get vaccinated as "bodily integrity is part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21." It said restrictions imposed on individuals by various state governments and other authorities through vaccine mandates are not "proportionate." Further, the SC suggested all authorities—including private organizations and educational institutions—review such restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated.
- The SC was hearing a petition challenging the move to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
- This came as many state governments—including Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu—imposed restrictions on unvaccinated individuals.
- The top court held these restrictions are not "proportionate" as no substantial data has been produced to show the risk of COVID-19 transmission from unvaccinated persons is higher compared to those vaccinated.
The SC, however, said its suggestions are limited to the present COVID-19 situation in the country. It will "not stop or prevent the government from taking any step in future to control the spread of the pandemic," the court said. "Till numbers are low, we suggest...relevant orders are followed and no restriction is imposed on unvaccinated individuals on access to public areas," it added.
The SC also held the Centre's current COVID-19 vaccination policy is not unreasonable or arbitrary, considering the seriousness of the disease, reduction in oxygen levels, mortality rate, and expert opinion. Also, it cannot be concluded that emergency use approvals for vaccines were granted in haste as clinical trial data of the vaccines have been published as per the relevant norms, the SC noted.
Meanwhile, the apex court directed the Centre to publish the data on adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccination collected from the public and doctors on a publicly accessible system. It also asked the government to ensure the identity of individuals reporting the same isn't compromised.
On the vaccination of children, the SC approved the government's policy to inoculate those below 18 years, saying it is in "tune with international standards." It also maintained it cannot go against the opinion of experts in this matter. However, it directed the Centre to make public key findings of the different stages of clinical trials of vaccines approved for children at the earliest.