While hearing a plea for door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday acknowledged the limited scope of judicial review.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta remarked,
“As a court of judicial review we cannot act like a bull in a china shop. If Centre says something, then we have to follow that.”
All the same, while the judges expressed that they were no experts in the field of medicine, from personal experience, they observed that the procedure for getting vaccination could be made more “user-friendly”.
The Court thus sought clarification from the Centre on whether there were any protocols mandated to be followed while administering vaccination to citizens. This, so that it could decide how much intervention was possible in the plea seeking directions to start a door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination for citizens above 75 years of age and those who are specially-abled or bed-ridden.
Sharing a conversation he had with the Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Iqbal S Chahal, CJ Datta said when BMC was approached to conduct a vaccination drive for lawyers in the previous week within the High Court campus, he was informed that such vaccination was not possible as having an ICU close to the vaccination centre was mandatory.
Justice GS Kulkarni also chimed in, stating that the concerns raised in the plea seemed important.
“For senior citizens it should be more user friendly. For someone completely bedridden, what will you do? Instructions are needed.”
Petitioner-in-person Dhruti Kapadia submitted to the Court the research she had conducted for the vaccination mechanism. She stated that while instructions are being sought for door-to-door vaccination, the State could arrange for an offline registration process over the telephone as opposed the mandatory online registration.
She also argued that the requirement of Aadhaar cards could be dispensed with, considering there were citizens who live on the roads, and even transgender persons who could not avail vaccination for want of Aadhaar cards.
She also relied upon the order of the Allahabad High Court asking the Uttar Pradesh government to chalk out a door-to-door vaccination programme for citizens of all ages in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the State.
Kapadia also tendered a report which highlighted the results of a vaccination drive conducted door-to-door. After noting that the report was from a foreign source, CJ Datta remarked,
“Let us not turn to foreign countries. We are fully equipped. They will follow us.”
The Court said that once it has clarity on the protocol, it could consider making these suggestions to the government.
“Giving senior citizens helpline numbers, keeping a mobile van with doctors (on standby) and supervision is something we can suggest. We can make suggestions, but we cannot direct.”
While the Court directed the Union to come up with a response by this Friday, it expressed its wariness regarding execution of door-to-door vaccination.
“We do not want senior citizens collapsing after taking the vaccine. There may be more complications for senior citizens,” CJ Datta warned.