The Kerala High Court recently ruled that "although an individual is entitled to the right to refuse medical treatment under the Constitution, such right does not affect the authority of the executive to take measures to restore normalcy amidst a pandemic."
The petitioners are students undergoing education in various colleges in the State. They have taken an informed decision not to take the vaccine fearing adverse side effects. On 17.09.2021, the Government in the Higher Education Department, considering that the relaxations on restrictions imposed for prevention of Covid-19 pandemic, ordered to open the higher education institutions including professional colleges in the State for the final year graduate students and postgraduate students.
In the light of the said Government Order, the Director of Collegiate Education issued a circular on 01.10.2021 directing that students, teachers, and other staff members who have taken two doses of Covid-19 vaccine or one dose of the vaccine before two weeks and those who have recovered from Covid-19 infection within the previous 90 days, shall be permitted to enter the educational institutions and their hostels.
Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar observed so while upholding a Government order and a circular that mandated the students to be vaccinated with at least one dose to be allowed into higher education institutions and their hostels which re-opened recently.
"No doubt, as held by the Apex Court in Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to refuse medical treatment as well, but ... I am of the view that the said right of individuals does not in any manner affect the authority of the executive to take measures like those impugned in the writ petitions to restore normalcy to life in times of pandemic, and merely for the reason that the same gives certain advantages to the vaccinated, such measures cannot be challenged as discriminatory by the unvaccinated."