The Centre on Monday opposed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking priority in coronavirus vaccination for judges, court staff, lawyers and their employees, Bar and Bench reported.
In an affidavit submitted to the court, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Manohar Agnani, said that it will be discriminatory towards people of other professions to give such a preference to those related to the legal fraternity.
“It may not be desirable to create a separate class consisting of lawyers and others below 45 years of age discriminating persons engaged in other trade, profession or business and working under similar geographic conditions and circumstances,” the affidavit said, according to Bar and Bench.
The petition was filed by a person named Arvind Singh, stating that judiciary and lawyers should also be regarded as frontline workers at par with doctors, police and others and be prioritised for the vaccine, reported Live Law. It further said that the Centre has not provided any mechanism or criteria for the identification of priority groups, and thus it showed arbitrariness.
Meanwhile, in a separate but similar case pending in the Delhi High Court, vaccine makers Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India filed a plea to transfer the matter to the Supreme Court, Live Law reported. Earlier this month, the Delhi High Court had registered a suo motu public interest litigation based on a letter by Bar Council of Delhi, according to Bar and Bench. Appearing for Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute, their counsels Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve sought the transfer of cases on Monday.
A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian will now hear the transfer petitions and Arvind Singh’s petition together on March 18, Live Law reported.
Last week, while hearing another petition on prioritising the judiciary for vaccination, the Bombay High Court judge Dipankar Datta compared himself to the captain of the ship “Titanic” as portrayed in the Hollywood movie of the same title, and said that he would be the one to take the vaccine after everyone else does. Datta referred to the petition as a “selfish” one.
Notably, vaccination for Supreme Court judges, including those who have retired, and their families, began earlier this month.
On March 1, India began its second phase of vaccination under which people above 60 years of age and those above 45 with co-morbidities, are eligible to receive the shots. India had begun the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines on January 16, with a target of inoculating 30 crore people by July.