It has been brought to the notice of this High Court that the State of Meghalaya, through various orders of the Deputy Commissioners, has made it mandatory for shopkeepers, vendors, local taxi drivers and others to get themselves vaccinated before they can resume their businesses.
A division bench of the high court, headed by Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder, “We need to look at certain fundamental principles which govern the field. Article 21 encompasses within its fold, right to health, as a fundamental right. By that same analogy, the right to health care, which includes vaccination, is a fundamental right. However, vaccination by force or being made mandatory by adopting coercive methods, vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it. It impinges on the fundamental right(s) as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood which makes it possible for a person to live”.
The court observed that there is a clear lack of legitimacy in prohibiting freedom of carrying on any occupation, trade or business amongst a certain category or class of citizens who are otherwise entitled to do so, making the notification/order ill-conceived, arbitrary and/or a colourable exercise of power. A notification/order of the State certainly cannot put an embargo and/or fetter on the fundamental right to life of an individual by stripping off his/her right to livelihood, except according to the procedure established by law. Even that procedure is required to be reasonable, just and fair (see Olga Tellis, supra).
The court stated there has been no legal mandate whatsoever with regard to coercive or mandatory vaccination in general and the Covid-19 vaccination drive in particular that can prohibit or take away the livelihood of a citizen on that ground.
Thus, the coercive element of vaccination has, since the early phases of the initiation of vaccination as a preventive measure against several diseases, have been time and again not only discouraged but also consistently ruled against by the Courts for over more than a century.
The court ordered that all shops/establishments/local taxis/auto-rickshaws/maxi cabs and buses should display prominently at a conspicuous place, a sign, “Vaccinated”, in the event all employees and staff of the concerned shop/establishment are vaccinated.
Similarly, in the case of local taxis/auto-rickshaws/maxi cabs and buses where the concerned driver or conductor or helper(s) are vaccinated. All shops/establishments/local taxis/auto-rickshaws/maxi cabs and buses should display prominently at a conspicuous place, a sign, “Not vaccinated”, in the event all the employees and staff of the concerned shop/establishment are not vaccinated.
The actual dimension of the signs, “Vaccinated” or “not vaccinated” and the conspicuous place where such sign is required to be affixed/displayed shall be decided by the concerned authority of the State. The matter is listed for June 30 for further consideration.