Highlights

  • Centre says no to mandatory Covid-19 vaccination
  • Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 has necessary measures to fight an epidemic disease
  • National Disaster Management Act of 2005 gives wide powers to mandate compulsory vaccination

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Govt says no to mandatory Covid-19 vaccination but can inoculation be forced in India?

As a legislative measure, Parliament and state legislatures can always enact a specific law making Covid-19 vaccine mandatory. The British government did so to deal with the smallpox epidemic in 1892.

Days before India completed a year of its Covid-19 inoculation program, the government, in an affidavit on January 18, told the Supreme Court that it has not issued any guideline that envisages vaccination without consent, or made vaccination certificates mandatory for any purpose.

While the Narendra Modi government noted that 'no person can be forced to be vaccinated against their wishes', the law allows for compulsory vaccination keeping the larger public interest in mind.

Also watch | Your definitive guide to Covid-19 | Does vaccine booster protect against Omicron?

As a legislative measure, Parliament and state legislatures can always enact a specific law making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory. The British government did so to deal with the smallpox epidemic in 1892.

If the government wants to use an executive measure, there are various existing laws. The Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 empowers state governments to take whatever measures necessary to fight an epidemic disease.

The National Disaster Management Act of 2005 gives wide powers to mandate compulsory vaccination through appropriate departments in the state governments and the central government. The central government can also enforce such a measure through section 62 of the Act.

Another way the governments can enforce compulsory vaccination is to impose high costs on refusing vaccination. For example, under the Passport Act of 1967, the government can either refuse the issuance of a passport or revoke an issued passport in relation to any person who refuses to be vaccinated.

In relation to immunization for Covid-19, the government can explain its action on the grounds of maintaining friendly relations with other countries or in the interest of the general public. The central government can impose a requirement of vaccination on anybody wishing to enter India.

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