Compulsory Vaccination for Reopening of Colleges, Not an Infringement of Fundamental Right: Kerala HC
The High Court of Kerala in Sanil Narayanan vs State of Kerala – WP(C) NO. 21120 of 2021 – held that measures taken by the authority imposing restrictions on entry of vaccinated students and staff into the college premises was in public interest and does not violate the rights of individuals.
The bench consisting of Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar held
.. that interest of the State Government, in issuing the impugned Government orders, is only a collective interest, to protect the health, welfare, and interest of the citizens at large and, therefore, the action of the State in including the alleged objectionable clauses contained in the impugned Government orders, can never be said to W.P.(C) Nos.21120 & 21463 of 2021 19 be arbitrary, illegal, irrational or unreasonable, and violative of the fundamental rights enjoyed by the petitioners or the citizens of the State under the Constitution of India.
The Higher Education Department of the government owing to the continued pandemic imposed certain restrictions in conducting physical classes through a circular dated 17.09.2021. Subsequently, when the situation came under control, the Higher Education Department of the Government of Kerala ordered for reopening higher educational institutions including professional colleges in the State of Kerala with effect from 04.10.2021 for final year graduate students and post graduate students subject to certain conditions to be adhered to owing to the ongoing pandemic. Accordingly, the respondent, the Director of Collegiate Education, issued a notice dated 01.10.2021 directing students, teachers and other staff members who have taken two doses of Covid-19 vaccine or one dose of the vaccine before two weeks before the date of joining and those who have recovered from Covid-19 infection within 90 days, were to be permitted to enter the educational institutions and their hostels.
The petitioners were students of various institutes in the state of Kerala who approached the court through a writ petition, to quash the notice dated 01.10.2021 and to have their regular classes without any restriction in the college premises. The cousel for the petitioner contended that their right to life under Article 21 is affected, stating that vaccination is not compulsory and this decision of taking vaccine is a right to privacy and even the vaccine having adverse effect.
The government pleader argued that, in the current situation, neither were the fundamental rights infringed nor could the interest of the general public be ignored. Further, he stated that public interest will always supersede the rights of individuals.
The court observed that where public interest is involved and State imposes certain restriction for the benefit of the public at large, private individuals cannot complain of infringement of fundamental right enshrined under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
When action is taken by the State Government, in the larger interest of the citizens, it can never be said that the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India are violated. This we say because, there is a clear empowerment under clause (2) of Article 19, to make reasonable restrictions by introducing law in the larger interest of the public, and further, Article 21 of the Constitution makes it clear that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law,
In conclusion, the Court upholding the directives of the authority, dismissed the writ.
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL