In the wake of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the state, the Meghalaya High Court in a judgment on Thursday has directed all shops, local bus and taxi stands to put up signboards informing about the vaccination status of their staff.
A division bench of the high court, headed by Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder, in its order said, every establishment will have to put up a signboard mentioning "Vaccinated" in the event all employees and staff of the concerned establishment are vaccinated and "Not-Vaccinated" if they weren't.
The bench, which has Justice HS Thangkhiew as its other member, further said that the dimension of the "vaccinated" or "not-vaccinated" signboard, and the place where it could be affixed will be decided by the officials concerned.
The suo moto PIL was filed by the Registrar of the High Court after authorities in several areas asked shopkeepers, vendors, taxi drivers and others to get themselves vaccinated before resuming business.
There have been instances of vaccine hesitancy in several areas of Meghalaya where people are not getting vaccinated fearing side effects. Several attempts of the state government to make people aware have fallen flat.
The High Court has also said that it will monitor the vaccine hesitancy in the state.
"This Court shall monitor this issue closely so that the state government is able to overcome the vaccine hesitation problem at the earliest and all eligible persons in the state of Meghalaya are vaccinated well within the timeframe as may be specified by the state," the court stated.
The Meghalaya High Court also said that vaccination administered by way of coercive methods vitiates the fundamental purpose of welfare attached to vaccination and ordered that the vaccination orders issued by the Deputy Commissioners (DC) of the districts should be seen as a "persuasive advisory", a court official said on Thursday.
A division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew while giving its interim order said that Article 21 encompasses within its fold, right to health, as a fundamental right.
"By that same analogy, right to health care, which includes vaccination, is a fundamental right. However, vaccination by force or being made mandatory by adopting coercive methods vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it. It impinges on the fundamental rights as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood which makes it possible for a person to live," the court said in its order on Wednesday.
Meghalaya's COVID-19 tally rose to 46,878 on Thursday as 420 more people tested positive for the infection, while 10 fresh fatalities pushed the northeastern state's coronavirus death count to 807.