SC notice to Centre on PIL to include judges, judicial staff in priority category for COVID-19 jab

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) The Supreme Court Tuesday sought the Centre's reply on a PIL seeking inclusion of judges, judicial staff and lawyers in the priority category for administration of COVID-19 vaccine.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notices to the Ministry of Health and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration and posted the petition for hearing after two weeks.

The top court was hearing a PIL, filed by advocate Arvind Singh, which said the Centre has not considered the claim of members of the judiciary, judicial staff, lawyers and their staff to be included in the priority category of group of population for COVID-19 vaccine.

The counsel for the petitioner said that persons associated with the 'Legal System' -- Judges, lawyers, court officers and staff and staff of the lawyers -- all over India are rendering 'essential services' and thus be included in the priority group of persons.

He said the Expert Group constituted by the government for guidance on vaccination has not even considered the claim of people belonging to the legal community in it report running into more than 150 pages.

He argued that while the police and other government agencies are being treated as frontline workers and all cases handled by these agencies ultimately land in the courts only and therefore the people involved with the working of the courts must also be treated as frontline workers.

'The purpose of the petition is to ensure that Judges, lawyers, court staff and the staff of the lawyers, who are also providing one of the 'essential services' in the form of Judicial Administration, are included in the priority category of group of the population for the administration of COVID-19 vaccine.

'They ought to be treated at par with other essential service providers for the purpose of administration of vaccine,' said the plea, filed through advocate Rishi Sehgal.

The PIL stated that the Centre has identified the population group which are to be vaccinated first but the same is not based on any set criteria and apparently suffers from arbitrariness and non-application of mind.

'The 'Operational Guidelines' published by Respondents nowhere provides for any mechanism and criteria upon which such priority population groups have been identified, showing arbitrariness The said decision of Respondents is ad-hoc and not based on a rational basis,' the plea said. PTI SJK PKS MNL SA