Mumbai: First others, then judiciary will get vaccinated, suggests Bombay High Court
BL Soni

Suggesting that the city's dabbawallas and also the staff of the private organisations must be considered for the Covid19 vaccinations, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directives to the state government to consider inoculating HC judges, court staff and advocates on a priority basis by declaring them as 'frontline workers.'

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni said that this being a policy decision, must be left to the "executive's wisdom." The judges even criticised the petitioners - two advocates - for being 'selfish' in seeking priority vaccination for the judiciary.

The bench was seized with a plea filed by two city-based advocates through their counsel Vinod Sangvikar, who urged the judges to direct the authorities to consider prioritising the judicial officers and advocates as front-liners and be provided with the jabs.

To buttress their contention, Sangvikar told the judges that the judicial officers have worked throughout the pandemic period and even the court staff and advocates risked their lives.

At this, CJ Datta reminded the counsel of the fact that there have been people from various professional spheres, who worked throughout the pandemic period. "There are sanitation workers, the staff of private companies and even the dabbawallas, who worked during the pandemic. We fail to understand why isn't a prayer in your petition for a jab for them. We think everyone is a frontline worker," the judges said.

The bench further said that there is nothing wrong with the decision of the government to inoculate frontline workers and others on a priority basis. "This is a policy decision and it can only be interfered with if there is even a minute scope of arbitrariness. Somethings must be left for the executive's wisdom," the bench said.

During the course of the hearing, CJ Datta, on a lighter note, asked Sangvikar if he has watched the film Titanic. "Do you remember the captain of that ship? He waits till all others are evacuated. Just like that, first, everyone else will get the jab then the judiciary and the in the last it would be me as I am the captain here (of the HC)," the chief justice said.

Meanwhile, additional solicitor general Anil Singh for the Union government told the bench that the Supreme Court is already seized with a plea filed by Bharat Biotech, the developer of Covaxin (vaccine of Covid), seeking to club all the petitions filed in various High Courts regarding the vaccination drive.

At this, CJ Datta adjourned the matter with a suggestion that as and when the government decides to inoculate the judicial members, the ASG and other senior advocates in the state must first recommend the names of the members of the legal services authorities, who are working on the ground.

Further, the judges also sought to know from the ASG if the government has mandatorily asked any 'proof' for one's "co-morbidities" to become eligible for the vaccine.

The matter would be heard next on March 17.

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Free Press Journal