Delhi HC refuses to further hear plea for vaccinating judges, lawyers on priority following SC stay

The Delhi High Court Friday refused to further hear a PIL to declare all people associated with the judicial functioning, including judges, court staff and lawyers, as “frontline workers” to enable them to get COVID-19 vaccination on priority in view of the Supreme Court’s order staying the proceedings. A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli adjourned sine-die the hearing in the PIL which was initiated by the high court on its own. The apex court on Thursday had stayed proceedings in the Delhi High Court on giving priority to the legal fraternity for administering COVID-19 vaccine and favoured transferring the suo motu case on the issue to itself for adjudication. The Centre has opposed creating a separate class of lawyers and said that though it is not opposed to the legal fraternity members but tomorrow journalists and banking sector employees may also come forward seeking priority in vaccination. During the brief hearing, central government standing counsel Anil Soni informed the high court that in the seven district courts here, the facility of COVID-19 vaccination for lawyers, who are eligible for it as per the policy, has started. Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII), the country’s leading COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, had told the high court that adequate capacity of vaccines was available for the vaccination of judicial staff, advocates and judges as frontline workers. The PIL was initiated to examine the demand to declare all people associated with the judicial functioning, including judges, court staff and lawyers, as “frontline workers” so that they could receive COVID-19 vaccination on priority and without limitations of their age or physical condition. As per the current policy, those above 60 years of age or between the age of 45 to 59 years with comorbidities are eligible for the vaccination. The government has said that rather than going by profession, the government is starting with vulnerability to COVID-19 infection. The high court had on March 4 asked the Centre to explain the rationale behind keeping strict control over class of persons who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 currently as under the present system those above the age of 60 years or with comorbidities can receive vaccination. It had said the two institutes which have developed the vaccines COVISHIELD and COVAXIN – Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech – have more capacity to provide the vaccines but it seems that their full capacity is not being exploited.

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