The top court also asked the Union govt to make CoWin available in regional languages.

A person being vaccinated Image courtesy: PTI
news COVID-19 Thursday, June 03, 2021 - 15:05

The Supreme Court in its May 31 verdict pointed out that the CoWin website was not accessible to persons with disabilities, particularly visual disabilities. “Conduct a disability audit for the CoWIN website and other IT applications like Aarogya Setu to ensure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities,” the order stated. The order also lists a set of issues that needed fixing, to make CoWin more accessible to persons with visual disabilities. This includes making audio text or Captcha available, and also making the keyboard support for navigating the website available. The court also ordered that users with disabilities should be given adequate time to schedule their appointment without the possibility of being automatically logged off, among other instructions. 

The order also asked the Union government to make “the CoWIN platform and other IT applications like Aarogya Setu should be made available in regional languages. Clarify on the timeline for ensuring the availability of the platform in multiple regional languages.” The top court also questioned the Union government’s vaccine policy where citizens can only get vaccine slots by registering on the online portal CoWin. The court highlighted that marginalised communities will find it difficult to access CoWin with the digital divide between rural and urban India. 

The order cited a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report which read, “Out of the total population of 1.3 billion, only 578 million people in India (less than 50%) have subscription to wireless data services. The wireless teledensity in rural areas is 57.13% as compared to 155.49% in urban areas as on March 31, 2019.”

The court observed that a vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal for vaccinating a significant population of this country “between the ages of 18-44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunisation owing to such a divide”. The court also added that it “is the marginalised sections of the society who would bear the brunt of this accessibility barrier.”

A Supreme Court bench led by Justices  DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat questioned the Union government for making vaccination for the 18-44 age group paid at a time when the importance of vaccinating this particular age group has emerged.  The Supreme Court bench pulled up the Union government over its handling of the COVID-19 situation in India and asked it to place on record all relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking culminating in the COVID-19 vaccination policy.

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