A Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation was registered by the Delhi High Court
on Wednesday (March 3, 2021) by stating that the lawyers, judges and the staff are equally at the risk of COVID-19. It went on to further say that all these people which are associated with judicial functioning are “frontline workers”
and must be vaccinated at the earliest, with no bar or limitation on their physical conditions or age.
The court stated:
"The need of the hour is to vaccinate the masses, in view of the raging Pandemic, on a war footing so as to secure the life and health of all those who step out of their homes to attend to their avocations and professions. 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.”
This decision to file a Suo Moto PIL was backed by conveyance of the said concerns in a communication by the Chairman of the Delhi Bar Council, Mr. Ramesh Gupta to the division bench comprising Justices Rekha Palli and Vipin Sanghi. This was done on Monday (March 1, 2021). The order read:
"In the light of the aforesaid, 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. We may observe that the co-morbidities enlisted by the Government to accommodate persons falling in the age group of 45 to 60 years, taken note of hereinabove, are serious conditions from which the Judges, the Court staff and Advocates may, or may not, be suffering. 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 communication by the Delhi Bar Council requested dispensaries to be opened in the court premises in order to vaccinate the “frontline workers,” along with the issuance of directions for the administrative and medical authorities that they ensure adequate infrastructure for the same. On finding substance in this communication, the court took cognizance of the same. Since two vaccines are available in India, namely Covaxin and Covidshield, the Court went on to issue notices to the manufacturer companies of both, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India respectively. The notices were also issued to the Secretary and Principal Secretary of Ministry of Health & Welfare, Government of India along with Principal Secretary of Ministry of Health & Welfare, GNCT of Delhi.
Lastly, the notices are supposed to be returnable before the Chief Justice, DN Patel on Thursday (March 4, 2021).