No Aadhaar, no vaccine? Bombay HC is asking the government to clarify its position


The High Court in Bombay ordered Maharashtra and the central governments to provide clarifications setting out their position on making Aadhaar compulsory for vaccination against COVID-19. The issue was raised during the hearing of petitions submitted to the court regarding the situation of COVID-19 in Maharashtra.

The court noted that the central and state governments should find a replacement vaccination system for citizens across the country, especially prisoners who may not have Aadhaar cards. This statement came amid concerns raised by Professor Vijay Raghavan, a member of the Center for Criminology and Justice, TATA Institute for Social Services, whose team works closely with prisoners in 6 prisons across Maharashtra.

During the hearing of the petition due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra prisons, Raghavan told the bench of Chief Judge Dipankar Datta and Judge GS Kulkarni that prisoners who did not have Aadhaar cards could not use the vaccination. As such, he called on the Court to issue appropriate orders.

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Chief Justice Datta in turn asked the state if there was a mechanism in place to determine whether prisoner had an Aadhaar card or not.

“Let’s say the Magistrate asks the accused if he has Aadhar or not, and he says no, then what can be done about it? Can you check?” Chief Justice Datta asked Advocate General (AG) Ashutos Kumbhakoni.

The court further asked whether a mechanism similar to that used to collect biometric data of individuals traveling abroad could be used to verify whether prisoner had Aadhaar or not.

The AG replied that the issue of Aadhar for vaccination was a burning issue in most Maharashtra prisons, as some of the prisoners were foreign nationals. Such prisoners would not have Aadhaar, he remarked.

The court noted that Aadhaar may be important for identifying the person being vaccinated and for maintaining a national database. However, the Court held that the authorities must devise some solution to vaccinate persons who may not have Aadhaar.

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“Some solution must also be found from the Center. This issue of Aadhaar is a pan-Indian issue,” said Chief Justice Datta.

Kumbhakoni informed the court that a request for instructions on this issue had been sent to the Center and that a response was awaited.

Chief Justice Datta also suggested holding camps with Aadhar maps in prisons. To this, Kumbhakoni pointed out that there are also foreigners in prisons.

“They can’t get Aadhaar. The prison authorities have already sent central as well as state authorities on this issue of mandatory Aadhaar for the vaccine.” The court then held that “there must be a way to circumvent this Aadhar issue. Vaccination is the easiest way to control this pandemic.”

“Those who don’t have an Aadhaar card, they don’t get vaccinated. As a matter of policy, please decide. Based on the fact that you don’t have an Aadhaar card and you haven’t been vaccinated. That can’t be the situation,” Chief Justice Datta said.

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