The Supreme Court on Monday held that an individual cannot be forced to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as citizens have the right to bodily integrity under Article 21 of the Constitution, Live Law reported.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai observed that the government is entitled to impose restrictions on individual rights in the interest of public health, but the curbs should meet the requirements of “legality, legitimate need and proportionality”.

The court was hearing a petition filed Jacob Puliyel, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group. In his plea, Puliyel had sought disclosure of clinical trial data of Covid-19 vaccines and a declaration that making vaccination mandatory is unconstitutional, reported Bar and Bench.

In its order on Monday, the Supreme Court also directed the Centre to make public the data on adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccination without compromising the details of individuals.

“Regarding segregation of vaccine trial data, subject to privacy of individuals, all trials conducted and to be subsequently conducted, all data must be made available to the public without further delay, the judgment said.

The court also held that orders passed by various state governments to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for citizens to avail public services were “not proportionate”, Live Law reported. There is no substantial data to show that the risk of transmission of the virus from an unvaccinated person is higher than from those who are inoculated, the court observed.

However, the court held that on the basis of scientific data, expert opinions on severe diseases and hospital admissions, the Centre’s vaccination policy cannot be called arbitrary, as was sought in the petition.

“Till [Covid-19] numbers are low, we suggest that relevant orders are followed and no restriction is imposed on individuals on access to public areas or recall the same if already not done,” the court ruled, reported Bar and Bench.

On March 22, the Centre had submitted to the court that it has not made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory, but has only directed states to ensure 100% inoculation.

At an earlier hearing on March 2, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Puliyel, had argued that vaccines cannot be made mandatory without clearly demonstrating that unvaccinated people pose any health risk.

India’s Covid positivity rate crosses 1% after two months

Meanwhile, India’s Covid positivity rate went past 1% on Monday for the first time in two months, the Union Health Ministry said. The country reported of 3,157 Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours and 26 deaths due to the disease.

The positivity rate refers to the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that return a positive result. A higher positive rate means a higher transmission rate for the virus.

The daily positivity rate on Monday was 1.07%, the highest since 1.11% on February 27, PTI reported. India’s overall Covid-19 tally rose to 4,30,82,345 cases and the toll went up to 5,23,869 on Monday. The active caseload stood at 19,500.