Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Thursday lashed out at the Union government for asking Beharampur Municipal Corporation in Odisha to stop door-to-door vaccination drive on the ground that the civic body hadn't taken permissions from the Union. The HC has granted time till June 2 to the National Expert Group of Vaccine Administration for Covid19 (NEGVAC) for deciding on whether to allow door-to-door vaccination or not.
The bench also pulled up the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for stating that it would conduct door-to-door vaccination for elderly and bedridden citizens only after getting permission from the Union government.
On Thursday, additional solicitor general Anil Singh told the judges that the Union has decided not to allow door-to-door vaccination drive owing to the Adverse Effects Following Immunization (AEFI).
Singh told the bench that the Union has planned to go to the housing complexes but not the doorstep. He said there would be an ambulance stationed in the compound to look after any AEFI.
However, advocate Dhruti Kapadia arguing in person, told the bench that door-to-door inoculation is possible as the civic body of Behrampur at Orissa has already started it and it is going on smoothly.
At this, ASG Singh submitted that the Behrampur authorities have stopped the drive now.
Having gone through the documents placed on record, Chief Justice Datta noted that the Behrampur authorities were asked to stop the drive by the Union government as it hadn't granted a permission to the authorities in Odisha.
"This is possible only in India wherein a drive is stopped just because the Union did not give the permission. The documents that the Union goverment has served nowhere mentions a single instance of any death owing to door-to-door vaccination," CJ Datta said.
"So you (Union) are all in all. That just cannot be. Can no one do anything without your permission? You have your own experts. And this is the stand of experts who haven't given a single reason against door-to-door," the chief justice observed.
The bench then turned to senior counsel Anil Sakhare representing BMC as the civic body in an affidavit told the bench that it won't conduct door-to-door drive unless the union government allowed it.
Notably, the judges had on Wednesday told the bench that it would grant permissions to the BMC to start the drive and yet the civic body didn't agree to start the drive.
"We are aghast to note that the BMC has succumbed to your pressure (by Union). You (BMC) have been doing so much work then why can't you start this drive. You don't want to take advantage of our orders too," CJ Datta observed, adding, "What is the fault of senior citizens and bedridden persons? Why can't they be given the jabs at their home?"
The bench further noted that the Union government has not yet taken the opinion of the NEGVAC on this issue and instead considered the decision of another panel.
During the hearing, Kapadia apprised the bench of the fact that the Union Health Minister had in a response in the Lok Sabha had specifically said that there were around 0.2 per cent complaints of side effects of the vaccines which were minor ones like fever, anxiety etc.
"Your minister has said this on the floor of the house that AEFI was only 0.2 per cent. Then how can you use this for not allowing door-to-door drive? We are disheartened by this attitude of yours," the chief justice said.
Having been pulled up, ASG Singh told the bench that the Union would reconsider the decision. At this, CJ Datta said, "We are more than happy if you reconsider but ensure that the intention should be to reach out to the citizens. You must be chasing people and vaccinate them and not make citizens to come to you." Meanwhile, the bench has sought a detailed chart on the number of cases wherein people reported of side effects by vaccines. "Same vaccine is being used in United Kingdom and even the USA still they are conducting door-to-door drive. Then why no such drive here. Consider all this," the judges said while posting the matter till June 2.