The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra and central governments about the steps taken to inform citizens about the procedure if they did not possess one of the seven identity cards prescribed for Covid-19 vaccination, reported PTI.
“What has the state and the Union [government] done to inform the public that the seven prescribed identity cards are not mandatory for vaccination?” it asked.
A bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and GS Kulkarni was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations related to greater access of the vaccines, improved functioning of the CoWIN portal and other matters.
The pleas said that while the Centre had issued a standard operating procedure for vaccinating those who do not possess any of the seven IDs, the states and districts were responsible for identifying these beneficiaries. The court said that it was the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that everyone was vaccinated.
Besides, these standard operating procedures were not widely known, the petitioners submitted.
In a release on May 7, the Centre said that “District Task Forces” should be set up to identify citizens without the required IDs and that such data should be collated at the state-level.
The CoWIN platform will provide for special vaccination sessions for these beneficiaries, the standard operating procedure had mentioned.
The court also directed the Maharashtra government to consider suggestions made by petitioner Yogeeta Vanzara about slots on the CoWIN platform, Bar and Bench reported. In her petition, Vanzara submitted that citizens had to waste time checking for slots throughout the day as they were not being disclosed beforehand.
Citing examples of districts like Kolhapur, Nandurbar and Gadchiroli, which informed about the slots for vaccines in advance, she said it helped citizens in applying for leaves in offices and plan for inoculating the elders. Vanzara added that she had made a representation with the suggestion to implement the system to the central government, Maharashtra government and Mumbai civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
Further, the court also took note of a separate petition which said that many people, particularly those in rural areas, were hesitant to take the vaccine, PTI reported. The Centre’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, opposed the submission, contending that several people, who earlier made public statements against receiving the vaccine, have now taken it.
The bench, however, said the government must continue creating greater awareness on the vaccine.
“What steps have you taken to educate the rural population about the importance of vaccination?” the court said. “The message about the vaccine’s importance must reach every part of the country. Both the Centre and the state must widely publicise the vaccination benefits.”
The court directed the state and central governments to inform about the steps taken on the matter raised on the next date of hearing on June 17.