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Supreme Court hears plea of advocate denied permission to travel for taking Sputnik V vaccine

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The Supreme Court on Monday heard a plea of Tarun Mehta, a practising advocate, who was denied from travelling abroad as he had taken two doses of Sputnik V Vaccine against Covid -19 and Sputnik V has not been approved by World Health Organisation. 

The Petitioner asked for preferred writ Petition seeking modification of COVID -19 Vaccination policy issued by the Union Of India and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Advocate wanted him to be permitted for voluntary re-vaccination, expenses to be borne by him, who has been vaccinated with Sputnik V Covid-19 Vaccine.

The Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant have directed the petitioner to give a representation to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Justice Chandrachud said to the petitioner for asking the efficacy and safety of Covishield vaccination after Sputnik V. He also asked for scientific proof for it.

The Writ Petition, filed by advocate Manikya Khanna, states about the policy which restricts person to get re-vaccinated with any other approved vaccines after having been fully vaccinated with Sputnik V or any other approved vaccine.

There are various countries such as the United States of America, Canada, countries forming the European Union, Japan etc.which are treating individuals who have been administered with Sputnik Vas un-vaccinated individuals who are either not being allowed to travel to the said countries or made to undergo mandatory quarantine, states Tarun Mehta in his Writ Petition.

Advocate Tarun Mehta in its Writ Petition states that about 12,21,876 doses of Sputnik V have been administered in India as on 05.04.2022.

He further raised the point that due to ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, there is a less chance that Sputnik V, will be granted approval/recognition by WHO, or by USA, Canada, countries forming the European Union, Japan etc.

The petition highlighted the relevance of personal liberty as defined under Article 21 of Indian Constitution, cited the apex court judgment titled as Satwant Singh Sawhney Vs. APO (1967) 3 SCR 525, which held that the right to travel abroad was an aspect of ‘personal liberty’ and therefore no person could be deprived of his right to travel except according to procedure established by law

Advocate Tarun Mehta, petitioner also prayed before the apex court ,seeking issuance of writ, order, direction in nature of mandamus or any other regarding formulation of policy for people revaccination who have been vaccinated with a vaccine which is not approved by WHO, United States Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency and such like organizations.

Tarun Mehta, took in aide the judgment of Maneka Gandhi v.UOI, wherein the apex court had held that right to travel abroad falls within domain of Article 21 of Indian Constitution.

The factual matrix of the case is that Tarun Mehta was issued a passport by Regional Passport Office dated 22.09.2016. Thereafter, on 17.11.2016, he was granted US visa which remains valid for 10 years from date of issuance. In January, 2020, WHO declared a public emergency of international concern.

The Writ Petition further states that according to RDIF it submitted applications to the WHO on 27.10.2020 for accelerated registration (Emergency Use Listing, EUL) and prequalification (PQ) of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Also, the Status of Covid-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/ PQ evaluation process, assessment of Sputnik-V is still underway.  Soon after, Covid-19 vaccination drive commenced from 16.01.2021 which started with administration of Covid-19 Vaccine to healthcare and frontline workers. 6.9 That on 15.02.2021, Covishield was granted EUL by the WHO.

From 01.03.2021, people over 60 years of age (as of 01.01.2021) and people between the age of 45 and 59 years with comorbid conditions started receiving Covid-19 vaccination. That on 15.02.2021, Covishield was granted EUL by the WHO.

He further mentioned that on 13.04.2021, Sputnik V was granted permission for restricted use in emergency situations. In April, 2021, the Petitioner contracted the Covid-19 virus.

Tarun Mehta visited the website of COWIN to verify whether it was possible for him to get re-vaccinated with a different Covid-19 vaccine.

However, the COWIN portal does not permit any re-vaccination of individuals with a different vaccine after having received one/two doses, states in the Writ Petition.

The petitioner’s grievance was that post Covid-19 vaccination drive commenced, sufficient quantities of Covishield and Covaxin were not readily available for administration across Delhi/ NCR and there was uncertainty regarding the time period and availability of the second dose.

Therefore, the petitioner got himself administered with first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine on 21.07.2021.

Due to the un-availability of the voluntary re-vaccination in the present Covid-19 vaccination policy, the Petitioner is being deprived of his fundamental right to travel abroad which is a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as stated in the Writ Petition.

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