The Maharashtra government fought public interest litigation (PIL) that sought to allow unvaccinated people to travel in Mumbai’s local train. The PIL argued that restrictions on their ability to travel by local train infringed on their constitutional rights. The Bombay High Court had asked the Maharashtra government to respond to the PIL and had requested a response from the Maharashtra chief secretary.
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One of the petitioners was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Maharashtra chief secretary Debashish Chakrabarty, “and he, in fact, has no reason to file this petition.”
The unvaccinated petitioners, according to the affidavit, did not want to take any doses but still believed they had the right to mix with the general public by taking public transportation.
Allowing unvaccinated people to mix with others on public transportation will only increase the risk of the coronavirus and its variants spreading explosively.
The state was asked to explain the “logic” behind the discrimination between “persons who have taken the two doses” and “persons who have not taken the two doses of vaccine,” according to the court.
“Because the court has requested assistance from the state, I am proceeding to explain the said logic to the court,” Chakrabarty said.
“These are limited public resources that were already stretched thin in the previous wave. For example, oxygen requirements exceeded 1,800 metric tonnes per day, despite state-level production being only 1,200 metric tonnes per day.” The Maharashtra government cannot allow demand for oxygen to exceed supply.
It cited reasonable restrictions under the Constitution in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court, saying the restriction was imposed to ensure unvaccinated people do not endanger their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of vaccinated people while commuting.
The Maharashtra government issued Covid-related guidelines late last month, stating that only fully vaccinated people would be allowed to use public transportation. This restriction applies to all types of public transportation, including local trains, regular railway services, bus services, and all types of public transportation.
“No citizen can proclaim his or her fundamental right to be reckless, to put pressure on resources like oxygen and hospital that must be considered as scarce public resources,” the 15-page affidavit stated.
In response, Chief Secretary Debashish Chakrabarty filed an affidavit citing the Constitution and stating that the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people was a “reasonable classification” for the purpose of protecting people. It cited Article 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution, which allows for “reasonable restriction” in the public interest.
The state health department stated in a separate affidavit that due to vaccination, the number of Covid-19 cases in the state has decreased. It cited evidence that people who have been vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus. According to the affidavit, preventing unvaccinated people from using public transportation protects vaccinated people’s right to life.
“Vaccination is critical and could save a person’s life. The Covid-19 vaccine protects against serious illness, hospitalisation, and death.”
“There’s also some evidence that getting vaccinated reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others, so your decision to get the vaccine also protects those around you.” “As vaccination rates have increased regionally, emergency care visits among fully vaccinated individuals have remained low and occur much less frequently than unvaccinated individuals,” the affidavit stated.
“Regardless of vaccination status, elderly patients with significant comorbidities are at high risk for severe outcomes if hospital-based treatment is required.”