Frame policy for vaccinating homeless: Bombay high court tells Centre, state

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The Bombay high court on Monday directed the state and central governments to address the issue of Covid vaccination of the homeless and those with an unsound mind.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation by activist TJ Bhanu, a division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni said the authorities should frame a proper policy to vaccinate the persons identified by the state and inform the court of the same within three weeks.

Additional solicitor general Anil Singh for the Centre said a similar petition was being heard by the Supreme Court. He added that there was a provision in law for local authorities to shift the homeless to shelters and as per the Mental Healthcare Act, the police were duty bound to locate mentally unsound persons and either unite them with their family or shift them to institutions through which they could be given the jabs.

The bench, however, sought to know why no proper decision was taken for vaccinating the mentally unsound though it had observed in the previous hearing that the May 27 advisory of the Central government did not contain any specific guidelines for such people.

“The May 27 advisory does not cover mentally ill. If we do not choose to vaccinate mentally ill and he is left to decide, he would be threat to society, why don’t you come up with policy to vaccinate mentally ill,” observed the bench.

The bench observed that the issue was regarding homeless persons too as there was no mechanism to identify if they were infected with Covid.

The state government, through the additional government pleader, submitted that around 20,950 homeless persons were identified in July and around 1,761 mentally ill persons were vaccinated in that month.

The bench noted that the affidavit was silent on homeless mentally ill persons and whether the 1761 vaccinated persons included them. The court then directed the state to file a better affidavit with steps to reach out to such persons within two weeks and posted the hearing of the PIL after three weeks.

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