The Delhi High Court has registered a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) case concerning COVID-19 vaccination of judges, court staff and lawyers on priority.
The PIL was registered in view of a letter written by the Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi, requesting that appropriate directions be issued to the concerned administrative/medical authorities to make available necessary infrastructure in Court premises for vaccination of the members of the judicial system, by treating them as frontline workers.
The order passed by Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said that there is weight in the claim made by the Bar Council of Delhi for declaring persons associated with judicial functioning as frontline workers.
“Prima facie, it appears to us that there is weight in the claim made by the Bar Council of Delhi for declaring all persons associated with the judicial functioning, which includes the Judges, the Court Staff and the lawyers as frontline workers, so that they could receive vaccination on priority, and without limitations of their age or physical condition,” the Court said.
Even if, they are not found to be suffering from one of the co-morbidities, it does not mean that the risk of their contracting the disease and suffering serious health issues – including fatality, does not exist, the Court added.
“To examine the aforesaid aspects, we are inclined to register this communication of Mr. Ramesh Gupta, Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi dated 01.03.2021 as a Public Interest Litigation,” the Court ordered.
The Court further stated that it would be necessary to ascertain the availability of the two vaccinations in use in India i.e. COVISHIELD and COVAXIN, and proceeded to issue notice to its manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
Notice was also issued to Central and Delhi governments.
In its order, the Court noted that the premises of the High Court and some of the District Courts are air-conditioned, and with increased footfall on account of physical resumption of physical hearings, there is likelihood of a spike in rate of infection.
“Courts, by their very nature, are places which have very high density congregations of people on a daily basis. Hundreds and thousands of cases are listed in any given Court complex every day. Apart from judges, the Court staff – which is substantial, and Advocates – who have to attend to their respective cases, and a large number of litigants visit Courts in which their cases are listed, on a daily basis..
The aforesaid peculiarity exposes the Judges, the Court staff, and the lawyers functioning in the Court system to the risk of contracting the disease from not only each other, but also from the large number of litigants who visit the Courts every day to attend to their cases. In fact, the number of persons visiting a Court complex – such as the Tiz Hazari Courts on any given day, may well be in excess of the number of persons visiting and thronging the hospital for treatment of patients,” it added.
The matter would be heard next on Thursday, March 4.