New Delhi: The Gujarat High Court Tuesday restrained the Indian Air Force from taking any coercive action against a corporal-level officer who declined to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
The officer, Yogendra Kumar, moved the HC challenging a dismissal notice issued to him by the IAF in May, which said that his persistent refusal to get himself vaccinated and defiance “verges to gross indiscipline.”
According to the notice, the officer’s continuation in the service is likely to “adversely impact the health of other air warriors and civilians”.
However, a bench of Justices A.J. Desai and A.P. Thaker issued notices to the central government and the IAF on Kumar’s petition. The petition seeks quashing of the dismissal notice served as well as directions to the IAF to follow the government policy that the Covid-19 vaccine is voluntary and not mandatory.
An Ayurveda practitioner, Kumar said that he was following all preventive measures under the alternative therapy and was diligently following all Covid protocols such as social distancing and wearing mask.
Kumar’s lawyer Gunjan Singh told ThePrint that forcing his client to get vaccinated is a violation of the 2018 Supreme Court judgment, which held that an individual has the right over his or her own body and to decide the medical treatment for themselves.
‘Taking Ayurveda products to enhance immunity’
Kumar was first served with a show cause notice by the IAF on 26 April, following a representation by him in which he expressed his unwillingness to get vaccinated.
In his representation, which was sent in February, Kumar mentioned that he was using ayurveda medicines to increase immunity against Covid-19, as advised by the AYUSH ministry.
He also noted he was not averse to allopathy medicines but took them only in emergency or if the solution to a disease is not possible in ayurveda.
“Although, I am not in favour of demotivating others for vaccinations and I am also observing that others apparently have no major side effects of vaccine but still I have some hesitations and my inner consciousness does not allow to get vaccinated instead of using ayurvedic methods,” said his representation, asking the authorities to facilitate him with his choice of medication.
Dissatisfied with his reply to the show cause notice, the IAF issued another notice on 10 May, asking him why his services should not be terminated for his refusal to take the vaccine.
In view of the decision, the IAF said, Kumar’s continuation in a disciplined force is undesirable.
‘Government policy says vaccination is voluntary’
In his petition, Kumar has cited government responses to various queries filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to assert that the central government has made the vaccination drive completely voluntary.
Therefore, the decision to dismiss him is not only contrary to the guidelines of the Union of India but violative of Article 14 and 21 (Right to Life and Liberty) of the Constitution.
“Petitioner respectfully submits that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on its website under the heading “Frequently Asked Questions on Covid-19 Vaccine” has stated that the Covid- 19 vaccine is voluntary,” submitted Kumar’s petition.
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