On 2.7.2021, Friday, a Jammu and Kashmir Court refused anticipatory release to a person accused of disseminating misinformation about COVID-19 vaccine and hindering the government’s immunisation programme, stating that giving him bail would be like “putting a value on his criminality.”
The Court remarked that a few rumour-mongers are serving as a major obstacle to the government's ambitious and arduous efforts to protect the public from the deadly COVID-19 virus through vaccination drives.
Concerning the claimed behaviour of the Accused, Principal Sessions Judge Tahir Khurshid Raina stated, “By propagating misinformation and disinformation campaign against the vaccine, the petitioner and their ilk are causing a lot of fear psychosis and uncertainty among the general public regarding the vaccination.”
“Such baseless and offensive conduct of the petitioner not only amounted to placing the life of the people in risk, who, if not immediately vaccinated, may succumb to the deadly virus,” the Court added, emphasising the probability of a catastrophic third wave and the need of vaccination.
The Court further stated that health professionals confront fierce resistance to vaccination, and are frequently assaulted, as a result of the misconceptions and falsehoods disseminated by persons like the petitioner. The petitioner's action not only thwarts the government's efforts to attain universal vaccination, but also jeopardises the health of a significant number of people, instilling doubt and cynicism about vaccination, particularly among those living in rural regions, according to the Court.
The petitioner was accused of obstructing a vaccination programme led by Assistant Commissioner Revenue Kulgam, in which he allegedly prevented the general public from receiving vaccinations by inciting people against the team and deflecting attention to other unrelated matters.
As a result, the Tehsildar filed a written complaint, based on which a FIR was filed under the Indian Penal Code's Sections 188 (disobedience to a public servant's order), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of a disease dangerous to life), and 353 (assault or criminal force against a public servant).
He was granted temporary anticipatory bail on his previous plea for bail apprehending arrest. The Court, however, refused to extend the protection based on the Tehsildar's and Revenue Officer's statements recorded under Section 161 of the Cr. P.C.
In these unique circumstances, the Court underlined the necessity of vaccination, citing the World Health Organization's (WHO) position that “it is not the vaccine that will halt the pandemic, but the vaccination.”
In this context, the Court said, “Our medical professionals fought as front-line fighters in the fight to rescue mankind while also constructing a vaccine to protect against the virus’s onslaught. When the World Health Organization (WHO) authorised it, it was used to vaccinate the whole world's population. A global vaccination effort is now underway to protect mankind from the prospect of a pandemic.”