Prioritise those who have booked slots for vaccination, HC tells Maharashtra

The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that those who had got appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccine must be prioritised for inoculation.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation petition raising concerns over issues with the CoWIN app used for booking vaccinations slots.

In an interim order, the court directed the State to first vaccinate those with prior bookings and then administer the surplus vaccines to those who visited the centre for ‘walk-in’ doses.

This direction came after advocate Jamsheed Master, appearing for the petitioner via videoconferencing, shared his screen and showed the court the CoWIN app. He said there had been instances when the app showed slots were available, but when a person booked a slot, they were turned away after reaching the said centre as vaccine was not available. He also said, “Only those centres should be open that have the vaccine as what is currently happening is many people reach the centre only to learn there are no doses.”

After the court was informed that several medical students were not given vaccines, the Bench said, “There is a shortage of vaccines. It is a question of patience now.”

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation counsel Geeta Shastri said since they wanted to avoid crowding at vaccination centres and due to the shortage of vaccines, they only opened a slot if they had 100 doses.

The HC said, “The U.S. was the worst-affected country, and now most of their population is vaccinated. It is either the administration which is failing or that people are not conscious.”

The Bench further said, “We are receiving criticism that the judiciary is demanding stocks of oxygen etc.. What are they doing of pending cases? Since the time I took over as the Chief Justice, 13 judges have retired in 13 months. But there have been no appointments in their posts.”

The court said, “There is no stock of judges. The issue of vaccination is similar. There is no stock available. First you create a tandem in the country and then when the situation worsens, you panic and scream vaccine, vaccine, vaccine.”

The matter was adjourned for hearing to June 2.

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