Persons with Disabilities: Supreme Court directs Government to invite suggestions from stakeholders to bolster greater access to vaccines

  • s.n.thyagarajann
  • 05:37 PM, 25 Jan 2022

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Chandrachud and Sanjiv Khanna today directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Department of Empowerment of Disabled to invite suggestions and responses from stake holders in order to enable better access to vaccination for persons with disability.

The court also clarified that this order is not a reflection of the ongoing vaccination program but is an exercise to bolster the access to vaccination for persons with disability

When the hearing for the matter commenced, Pankaj Sinha, Advocate, appearing for EVARA foundation submitted that the as per the affidavit of the government, only over 23,000 persons with disability have been vaccinated which is a very low number.  He further submitted that the helpline numbers were not effective, adding that the COWIN app is not accessible.

Aishwarya Bhati, ASG, submitted that the 23000 odd persons  as per the affidavit were people who registered for vaccination using Person With Disability card. She  further submitted that nine identity cards are acceptable for vaccination along with the PWD card. The ASG further submitted that , provisions were made initially for near to home vaccination centres with Har Ghar Dastak Abhiyan to ensure 100% vaccination. She submitted that since walk-in vaccinations are now permitted the use COWIN platform has now taken a back seat.

The court on hearing the parties noted that the issue raised by petitioners is not adversarial since access to vacation should be made for Persons With Disability. The court further held that since many suggestions were being made across the bar, it would be appropriate for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Department of Empowerment of Disabled to invite suggestions and responses from stake holders in order to enable better access to vaccination for persons with disability.

The Supreme Court was on 13th January informed by the Government of India that the latter has already undertaken the process to implement features in the Co-WIN portal to make it more accessible to persons with disability.

While responding to the suggestions made by Evara Foundation, an NGO, the Centre has filed an affidavit before the top court, highlighting as to how the suggestion so made have been or would be implemented/incorporated by them.

Last month, the top court had directed the NGO Evara Foundation to share its suggestions with the Court and the Central government in a plea seeking administration of Covid-19 vaccines to persons with disabilities and their caregivers at their place of residence.

A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna had asked the NGO to formulate any concrete suggestions which they may have to strengthen the existing framework for facilitating the vaccination of the disabled and to ensure that they have proper access to vaccination against Covid-19.

The affidavit filed by the  Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI, further adds that vaccination is not mandatory and the directions and guidelines issued by the government do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining the consent of the concerned persons.

Cause Title: Evara Foundation v. Union Of India And Ors