No One Can Be Forced To Take COVID Vaccine, Rules Supreme Court

New Delhi: Stating that the Centre’s COVID-19 vaccination policy is not arbitrary, the Supreme Court on Monday said that no one can be forced to get vaccinated.

“Bodily integrity is protected under the law and nobody can be forced to be vaccinated,” the Bench of Justice L N Rao and Justice B R Gavai said. “Certain limitations on individual rights could only be imposed in the interest of community health,” the Bench observed, hearing a petition objecting to vaccines being made mandatory.

“On the basis of substantial material filed before this court reflecting the near-unanimous views of experts on the benefits of vaccination in addressing severe disease from the infection…mortality and stopping new variants from emerging, this court is satisfied that the current vaccination policy of the Union of India…cannot be said to be unreasonable or manifestly arbitrary,” it observed.

The SC further observed that restrictions imposed on individuals through vaccine mandates cannot be called to be proportionate, referring to some states that have made it mandatory for people to get vaccinated to access public places.

“Till infection numbers are low, we suggest that no restriction is imposed on individuals on access to public places, services and resources. Recall the same if already done,” it said.

The SC said its order did not extend to COVID-appropriate behaviour but was limited to vaccines.

The top court also directed the Centre to publish reports on adverse vaccine events on a publicly accessible system, without compromising privacy.

“Regarding vaccine for children, it’s not possible for us to second guess the opinion of experts and the vaccination indeed follows global standards and practices. However, data of adverse reactions to be published at the earliest,” it said.

The petition by Jacob Puliyel, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), also called for clinical trial data of vaccines to be made public.

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