Employee unwilling to take vaccine challenges IAF notice

The Gujarat High Court has issued a notice to the Indian Air Force on a petition filed by one of its personnel posted in Jamnagar challenging the show-cause notice issued to him for termination of service after he expressed his unwillingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A Division Bench of Justices A.J. Desai and A.P. Thaker on Tuesday issued the notice to the IAF and the Central government and also directed the IAF not to take any coercive action against the petitioner till July 1.

Petitioner Yogender Kumar, an IAF corporal, had moved the court seeking a direction to quash the May 10, 2021 show-cause notice, in which the IAF stated that his stand against vaccination “verges to gross indiscipline”, and his continuation in the service is likely to adversely impact the health of other “air warriors and AF civilians”.

“The IAF is of the opinion that your continuation in the disciplined force like Indian Air Force is undesirable and you need to be separated from the service,” the petitioner said quoting the notice issued to him.

The plea said the decision of respondent no. 1 (IAF) to dismiss the petitioner for refusing to take vaccine was not only contrary to the guidelines of the Union of India, but also violative of Articles 14 and 21. “The termination from job due to unwillingness to take COVID-19 vaccine is completely illegal, unconstitutional and arbitrary on part of respondent no.1,” Mr. Kumar said in his plea, seeking the court to quash the notice and direct the IAF not to force him to get vaccinated.

The petitioner on February 26, 2021 wrote to the Commanding Officer of their squadron expressing his unwillingness to take vaccination against COVID-19.

Ayurvedic medicines

While refusing to get vaccinated, the petitioner in his application had told the IAF that he was using Ayurvedic medicines to increase his immunity against COVID-19. He had also told that he used allopathic medicines only in emergency, or when a solution was not possible in Ayurveda.

“I have some hesitation and my inner consciousness does not allow me to get vaccinated,” he had stated in his application, as quoted in the plea moved before the court.

Mr. Kumar had said he might be excused from vaccination against COVID-19.

“The petitioner has the right to receive treatment of his choice and vaccination cannot be forced upon him ... as per the Central government, the vaccine is voluntary and not mandatory for individuals in the country,” he said in his plea.

Mr. Kumar also said he was unwilling to get vaccinated as it was not fully approved by the administration and had been given emergency use authorisation, hence it should not be considered the only option for prevention against COVID-19.

He also cited newspaper reports related to deaths and adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

2018 SC verdict

The petitioner also cited a Supreme Court judgment of 2018 to buttress his claim and said “he has the right to receive treatment of his choice and vaccination cannot be forced upon him.” Mr. Kumar in his plea said he was taking Ayurvedic medicines and products suggested by the AYUSH Ministry, and was also strictly following the guidelines of wearing mask, avoiding crowded places, using sanitiser and washing hands at regular intervals. He did yoga and took sufficient amount of Vitamin C through fruits and vegetables, the petitioner said, adding that while these measures did not give 100% protection from the infection, they had worked in his case so far.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:18:15 AM |

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