The counsel for the petitioner argued that persons with disabilities may not be able to observe COVID-related precautions, putting them in the high-risk category.

A persons legs in a wheelchair Image for representation. Steve Buissinne/Pixabay
news Coronavirus Friday, April 23, 2021 - 21:15

The Karnataka High Court on Friday told the state government to respond to a petition seeking vaccination on a priority basis for persons with disabilities. The petition was filed by Karnataka Rajya Vikalachethanara Rakshana Samithi, an organisation that fights for the rights of persons with disability in the state.

Vishwesh S, an advocate appearing for the petitioner, argued that due to their disabilities, persons with disabilities may not be able to maintain appropriate distance, avoid touch, or wear mask, placing them in the high-risk category. “The only way to keep them safe is to vaccinate them and their caregivers on a priority basis. Since there is a right, they are entitled to a mandamus,” the lawyer argued, as reported by LiveLaw

The High Court has told the government to file its response by Monday. However, since the registration for those above 18 years for vaccination against COVID-19 is set to begin on April 28, the lawyer said that orders should be given before that. The Indian government recently announced that persons above 18 years of age can get vaccinated from May 1.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindraj said that because this petition requires “urgent consideration,” the Karnataka government should list it on April 26, when a special sitting is to be held.

The petition states that vaccinations for persons with disabilities can be done through District Disability Welfare Offices (DDWO) by organising special camps. DDWOs also have data of residents in a district who have disabilities. The petition said that this data can facilitate in identiying and and subsequently making arrangements to vaccinate persons with disabilities.

It also pointed to sections 8 and section 25 (i) and (j) of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 to further its appeal. Section 8 of the law on protection and safety, says that persons with disabilities “shall have equal protection and safety in situations of risk, armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.” 

Section 25, which pertains to healthcare, says that appropriate government and local authorities should take measures to provide “(a) free healthcare in the vicinity especially in a rural area subject to such family income as may be notified; (b) barrier-free access in all parts of government and private hospitals and other healthcare institutions and centres; (c) priority in attendance and treatment” for persons with disabilities. 

The section also says that the appropriate government should take steps to enact schemes or programmes encouraging healthcare and prevent the occurrence of disabilities, and for this, it should provide healthcare during times of natural disasters; as well as essential medical facilities for life-saving emergency treatment and procedures. 

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