The Gujarat High Court has issued a notice to the Indian Air Force on a petition filed by one of its personnel posted in Jamnagar, challenging the show cause notice issued to him for termination of service after he expressed his unwillingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In an order passed on Tuesday, a division bench of Justices AJ Desai and AP Thaker issued the notice to the IAF and central government and also directed the IAF not to take any coercive action against the petitioner till July 1.
Petitioner Yogender Kumar, an IAF corporal, had moved the high court seeking a direction to cancel the show cause notice dated May 10, 2021, in which the IAF stated that his stand against vaccination "verges to gross indiscipline", and his continuation in the service is likely to adversely impact the health of other "air warriors and Air Force civilians".
"The IAF is of the opinion that your continuation in the disciplined force like Indian Air Force is undesirable and you need to be separated from the service," the petitioner said quoting the notice issued to him.
The plea said the decision of respondent no. 1 (IAF) to dismiss the petitioner for refusing to take the vaccine is not only contrary to the guidelines of the Union of India but also violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
"The termination from a job due to unwillingness to take COVID-19 vaccine is completely illegal, unconstitutional and arbitrary on part of respondent no.1," Yogender Kumar said in his plea while seeking the court's direction to cancel the notice and direct the IAF not to force him to get vaccinated.
The petitioner on February 26, 2021, wrote to the Commanding Officer of their squadron, expressing his unwillingness to take vaccination against COVID-19.
While refusing to get vaccinated, the petitioner in his application had told the IAF that he was using ayurvedic medicines to increase his immunity against COVID-19. He had also told that he uses allopathic medicines only in an emergency, or when a solution is not possible in Ayurveda.
"I have some hesitation and my inner consciousness does not allow me to get vaccinated," he had stated in his application, as quoted in the plea moved before the High Court.
Yogender Kumar had said that he may be excused from vaccination against Covid.
"The petitioner has the right to receive treatment of his choice and vaccination cannot be forced upon him...as per the central government, the vaccine is voluntary and not mandatory for individuals in the country," he said in his plea.
The corporal also said he was unwilling to get vaccinated as it is not fully approved by the administration and has been given emergency use authorisation, hence it should not be considered the only option for prevention against Covid.
He also cited newspaper reports related to deaths and adverse effects of Covid vaccines.
The petitioner also cited a Supreme Court judgment of 2018 to buttress his claim and said "he has the right to receive treatment of his choice and vaccination cannot be forced upon him."
Corporal Kumar in his plea said he is taking ayurvedic medicines and products suggested by the AYUSH ministry and is also strictly following the guidelines of wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, using sanitiser, and washing hands at regular intervals.
He does yoga and takes a sufficient amount of vitamin C through fruits and vegetables, the petitioner said, adding that while these measures do not give 100 per cent protection from the infection, they have worked in his case so far.