Imphal: The High Court of Manipur has directed the state government not to give effect to its earlier notification dated June 30 for reopening of offices, business establishments, institions and organisations, among others, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the notification, the state government had proposed to relax curfew restrictions in a calibrated manner by assessing the COVID-19 situation. It had also said that while opening up, without compromising on public safety, the government would prioritise reopening of institutions, organisations, factories, shops, markets and private offices, among others, where employees and workers were vaccinated against COVID-19.

The government had further said that the new order would also apply to NREGA job holders and workers of government and private projects.

The court’s order followed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a resident, Osbert Khaling, challenging the notification issued by the state’s home department on giving priority to vaccinated people.

The PIL asserted that prioritising vaccinated people and putting condition for resuming businesses or professions is a discrimination and a clear violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The petition further said that though vaccination is the need of the hour, there is nothing to show that vaccinated persons cannot be infected with the deadly virus or cannot be spreaders.

If both cover their faces with a mask as per COVID-19 protocols, there is no reason to discriminate against the unvaccinated people, the petition said.

Such notification clearly deprives the unvaccinated, marginalised sections and further violates Article 21 of the Constitution which gives right to life and livelihood, it added.

The notification was issued in keeping with the policy of the Central government, seeking to promote COVID-19 vaccination. The objective is to ensure a degree of immunity in the people, at least to the extent of preventing dire consequences, if infected, said the petitioner.

However, the ground reality is that there is abounding ignorance among the people as to the side effects, if any, of the vaccination and in consequence, apprehensions of the risk that may ensue upon being vaccinated, it stated.

It is for the state government to dispel such fears by educating people as to the advantage of getting vaccinated and erase their apprehension of the adverse consequences of getting vaccinated, the petitioner further said.

“Without addressing this issue, the state cannot seek to impose conditions upon the citizens so as to compel them to get vaccinated, be it holding out a threat or by putting them at a disadvantage for failing to get vaccinated,” it stated.

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Meanwhile, additional advocate general S Rupachandra informed the court that the notice is merely an expression of intention by the government as to what it proposes to do once relaxation of the curfew/containment zone orders is resorted to.

He further asserted that the intention of the government will not be acted upon till such event comes to pass and prayed that he may be given an opportunity to file a reply properly explaining the situation.

The court has asked the respondents to file a reply by July 27 and fixed the next date of hearing on July 28.

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