New Delhi [India], May 21 (ANI): A PIL has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Union of India (UOI) and other state governments to initiate a priority-based vaccination drive for journalists, media personnel and their families against COVID-19 and consider them frontline workers.
The PIL, filed by lawyer Vishal Tiwari, also sought direction to grant an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 20 lakhs to the next kin of those journalist/media personnel who have lost their lives to the pandemic, while remaining active in media coverage in 2020 and 2021.
He also sought direction from the Apex Court for an insurance policy for Journalists/Media Personnel.
This petition stands firmly maintainable, as there have been violations of fundamental rights of unrecognised front line workers of the individuals - primarily journalists, media personnel and other broadcasting workers, Tiwari said in his PIL filed before the Supreme Court.
"The violation of Right to Life, liberty and Right to Health enshrined under Article 21 makes the situation worse for the front line workers to sustain during this time of COVID-19," Tiwari added.
This Court, in the Maneka Gandhi against the UOI case, set a new dimension to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and held that "right to life is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity and liberty", Tiwari said in his petition.
However in this present situation, the right to live with human dignity, life and liberty has been jeopardised because sustenance has been a question and the situation has been worse where the individuals who are working effortlessly to gather information pertaining to the present situation are not under any relief package of the respondents, Broadcasting of news directly, Tiwari said in his PIL.
He further said that as he understood the problems very well faced by media as he was from a family of journalists. His father is an Editor of a local Rajasthan newspaper.
The fundamental right to health has been recognised by the judiciary as one of the most essential fundamental right primarily in the case of Punjab against Mohinder Singh Chawla, he said.
The Court reaffirmed in the case that the right to health is fundamental to the right to life and should be put on record that the government had a constitutional obligation to provide health services.
"However the present reality does not portray the similar situation, the government both the central as well as the states have failed to recognise the act of the journalist and media workers and has failed to distinguish them as front line workers. No priority vaccination drive has been formulated for such professionals leading to numerous deaths from COVID-19 of various individuals primarily in this field," Tiwari said.
He further put forward statistics that showed that more than 114 journalists have died in the last 36 days (till May 20) due to COVID-19 from all over the country yet the government hasn't taken any action for the sacrifice they have made while gathering information on such issues devastating our country.
Some states like, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Bihar and few others have declared journalist as front line workers but all others states and the centre still have to take initiative for the protection of the Health and life of the journalist, he added.
"The freedom and action of the press are considered as the fourth pillar of democracy wherein such pillar stands as the foundation of the democratic society. The free exchange of information, ideas, knowledge and different viewpoints are important for the functioning of the democracy. Such information gathered by the journalists through their tireless efforts will enable the people to take informed decisions and be reasonably aware of the situation in our society," Tiwari said.
"Our country is facing this horror situation and amidst this situation, journalists are still out there and providing us with the essential news coverage and reports without fearing for their life. Many of them succumbed to death and nobody is even paying attention to their lives, Tiwari said, in his PIL, filed before the Supreme Court.
"Journalists are also front line workers who risk their lives to collect the news from various places. They are not even getting slots for vaccination therefore they should be vaccinated on a priority basis because as of now the condition of the country is getting worse day by day and according to the covid guidelines front line workers are getting vaccinated first on priority basis," Tiwari said in his PIL, filed before the Supreme Court. (ANI)