Covid 19 affected the whole world adversely. Every country tried its maximum to fight against the disease but almost every country suffered a lot from its effects. Different methods and procedures were tried to reduce its impact which includes maintaining social distancing, personal hygiene, awareness classes, vaccines, improving hospital facilities, welcoming more youth for volunteering, lockdowns, quarantine, etc.
The most critical step taken among these was compulsory vaccination. The government made it mandatory and made restrictions on people who haven’t done the same. This created differences in opinion among citizens of India and ended up in a case in the Supreme Court under a writ petition.
COURT – HONOURABLE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CITATION – WP(C) 607 OF 2021
DATE OF CASE – 2 MAY 2022
PETITIONER – JACOB PULIYEL
RESPONDENT – UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS
BENCH – L. NAGESWARA RAO, B.R. GAVA
The Indian government announced in April 2021 that all citizens above the age of 18 would be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In May 2021, they also announced that the vaccine would be mandatory for specific groups, such as healthcare and frontline workers. Jacob Puliyel, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), filed a writ petition against the Government seeking to release the vaccine’s trial data, which is made mandatory and administered to people. He also noted the release of after-effects of this vaccine and made the common man aware of the same. He also questioned the decision of making vaccines mandatory in an emergency as it violates Article 21 of the Indian constitution. 
- Was the Government transparent in publishing clinical trial data?
- Is compulsory vaccination a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
- Was there improper collection and reporting of AEFIs?
- Was the common man aware of the clinical trial results?
- Was denying certain rights to unvaccinated citizens legal?
- Whether the safety of children in administering the vaccine is considered and studied?
- The battle between natural immunity and vaccines
- People getting infected by coronavirus even after vaccination
- Opaqueness in publishing clinical trial data
The petitioner argued that clinical trial data were not made public and this denies the right of individuals to know about the vaccine and its adverse effects which are being injected into their own body. This cannot be justified at any cost. Every person’s health conditions are different. Many people were seriously weak after administering the vaccine. It was the responsibility of the government to make the people aware of all the possible adverse effects so that people can decide whether the vaccine suits them depending on their medical condition.
Union of India justified that all procedures of clinical trials and approvals are obtained from concerned expert authorities.
- Compulsory vaccination and violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
The petitioner argued compulsory vaccination violates Article 21 of the Indian constitution as the right of the citizen whether or not to get vaccinated is being taken over by the government. Also, restrictions were imposed on unvaccinated people. Even moving to certain places was denied which violates a person’s basic rights. Here people are being forced to get vaccinated against their will. Mandatory vaccination is ordered even without properly publishing the clinical trial data.
- Improper reporting of AEFIs
AEFI means Adverse Events Following Immunization. The petitioner contended that a proper trial analysis of the adverse effects of vaccines was not done. Thus, common people were not aware of its aftereffects and the aftercare which must be taken. He also noted that proper measures to handle these adverse effects were also not taken by the government. It was clear even for a common man that infections were caught by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Both the categories transmitted the disease too. Thus, if the reason for which it was administered is not successful then how can the government make it compulsory? Also, acquired immunity was more powerful than artificial immunization
- Vaccination for children
No vaccine can be given without proper analysis and it is a time-consuming process. Surely, the time currently taken is not enough for a proper analysis. Children also have acquired immunity against covid 19 and are thus less vulnerable to disease. So, the introduction of vaccines for children was not that necessary.
The Supreme Court of India stated that getting vaccinated or not is a personal choice which is protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Any interference with this violates the basic rights of the individual. Yet, the court also stated that in case of emergency to prevent mass transmission to protect the public health mass vaccination can be done.
The UOI noted that all the requirements were met by the vaccines and clinical trial data was also collected only then the vaccines were allowed to administer by the World Health Organisation.
The UOI also stated that to report adverse effects of vaccines National Adverse Event Following Immunization Surveillance Guidelines were followed. Also, the COWIN portal serves as a mechanism to report AEFIs. All the adverse effects were properly analysed and facilities were given to report the same.
The paediatric vaccine was advised by global agencies such as the WHO, UNICEF, and the CDC. Experts also uplift this decision. Also, the Union of India argued by revealing the data on the safety of vaccine use in children.
The Court dismissed the writ petitioner by the statement that no individual can be forced to be vaccinated and the restrictions which were imposed on the people were not arbitrary. The court also stated that the restrictions were to protect public health which was important in the pandemic. Yet, an individual has the right to decide whether to get vaccinated or not thus the restrictions imposed on unvaccinated individuals must be taken away.
The court also stated that the safety of vaccines was beyond the Court’s jurisdiction. Also, the court directed the Union of India to make the AEFIs more accessible to individuals and doctors and make them publicly accessible.
The court also rejected the petitioner’s view that emergency approval of vaccines was given without proper clinical trials.
The Supreme Court of India cleared most of the queries pointed out by the petitioner and proper judgements were given. However, the minimum time required to check the adverse effects of vaccines as some effects may start showing after a longer period was not discussed. This can be justified by the fact that it was an emergency. But such a vaccine which lacks proper time taken clinical trials cannot be made mandatory as individuals will be concerned about the same. This makes the individual’s basic right denied. Another important fact was that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people transmitted and were affected by the disease. Thus, clarification from experts regarding this was needed.
HRIDYA S KUMAR, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF ADVANCED LEGAL STUDIES KOCHI
 Jacob Puliyel v Union of India (2021) Writ Petition (Civil) No. 607/2021
 Constitution of India 1950, Art 21