Observing that enough measures were not taken to vaccinate the homeless and mentally challenged persons wandering in the community, the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain steps it will take to reach out to these persons and ensure they are vaccinated.
“Is the mechanism available? Whether they (homeless and mentally challenged persons) are being identified and vaccinated? Otherwise, the threat (of Covid19 spreading further) continues,” remarked Chief Justice Dipankar Datta.
A division bench of Chief Justice and Justice Girish Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation filed by TJ Bhanu seeking that the homeless persons and mentally challenged persons should be identified and vaccinated.
Additional solicitor general Anil Singh, appearing for the Central Government, informed the HC that the Supreme Court was monitoring the situation of vaccination of homeless and mentally challenged persons.
The affidavit was filed by the State government in July which said that they have identified 20,950 homeless persons and of these, around 7,000 persons were vaccinated. Besides, around 1,700 mentally challenged persons were vaccinated who were admitted in institutions in the state.
According to the affidavit, the police was in-charge of identifying homeless and mentally challenged persons in their area and shift them to institution for the homeless or mentally challenged.
Once admitted in an institution, the medical doctor there certifies whether the homeless/ mentally challenged person is fit for vaccination. “The mentally challenged person is not in a position to give consent for vaccination. Hence a doctor’s consent is required since we can’t force anyone to take vaccine,” said Singh.
Disapproving with the additional duty given to the police, the chief justice said: “Can’t BMC officials go around the city and identify mentally challenged persons in their area? Police already has enough work to do.”
Emphasizing that unvaccinated mentally challenged persons continue to pose threat to society, justice Kulkarni said that it was the duty of the BMC to identify such persons. “You (BMC) have to locate them and then inform police,” said Justice Kulkarni.
The HC has directed the Commissioner of Social Welfare Department and an officer from the Health Department of the BMC to address the concern of vaccinating the homeless and mentally challenged persons who are wandering in the community.
“The mentally challenged persons cannot make an informed decisions (about getting vaccinated). We want the state government to file a detailed affidavit explaining steps it proposes to take to reach out to these persons,” observed the HC in its order.
The HC has also asked the BMC to file its affidavit within three weeks on the number of mentally challenged persons identified and vaccinated by the corporation.
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