15 Mar 2021: Prioritizing lawyers, judges for COVID-19 vaccines discriminatory: Centre to SC
Giving priority to lawyers and judges in the COVID-19 vaccination drive could be discriminatory to other professions, the central government told the Supreme Court on Monday.
Currently, India's vaccination drive is solely focused on healthcare/frontline workers, people above the age of 60, and people aged over 45 with co-morbidities.
Nearly three crore people have been vaccinated since the drive was launched on January 16.
Submission: Not desirable to create separate class of lawyers, judges: Centre
The Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Manohar Agnani, submitted an affidavit in the apex court saying that it would not be desirable to create a separate class of lawyers, judges, and staff.
Lawyers and staff aged over 60, and those aged over 45 with co-morbidities are anyway eligible to be vaccinated under the nationwide drive, the affidavit stated.
Fact: 'Discriminating persons engaged in other trade, profession'
The affidavit said, "It may not be desirable to create a separate class consisting of lawyers and others below 45 years of age discriminating persons engaged in other trade, profession or business and working under similar geographic conditions and circumstances."
Plea: Plea sought inclusion of judges, lawyers, staff
The Centre's affidavit was filed in public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Arvind Singh seeking the inclusion of judges, lawyers, and court staff in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination.
Incidentally, on February 4, the Delhi High Court had rejected a PIL seeking directions to the Centre to include members of the legal fraternity in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination.
Other pleas: Pleas before Delhi, Bombay HCs for vaccine prioritization
Subsequently, the Delhi HC registered a suo motu case based on a letter by Bar Council of Delhi seeking directions to the Centre to declare persons associated with judicial functioning as frontline workers.
A similar PIL is pending before the Bombay HC.
Both courts deferred hearings after a transfer petition was filed by vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech to move the matter to the SC.
Court: SC queried whether matter should be sent to HCs
On Singh's plea, the SC queried whether the matter should be sent to one of the High Courts.
Representing vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, senior advocate Harish Salve argued that the SC should settle the matter as it has pan-India implications.
The plea has been listed for hearing on March 18 along with the transfer petition.
(Source: Bar and Bench)