MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government on Monday to file an affidavit, giving details of how many mentally ill people, who were homeless or without legal guardians, have been identified and registered for vaccination against COVID-19.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni directed the state government to file the affidavit within three weeks.
The bench also directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to file an affidavit, informing the court about the number of such people registered for vaccination and those who already vaccinated in the city.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), seeking better access to vaccination against COVID-19 for citizens, including those who were mentally ill or not in a position to give a consent for the inoculation.
On Monday, the Union government’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, told the bench that while the Centre had issued an SoP (standard operating procedure) for vaccinating the homeless and mentally ill people, it was the state police’s responsibility to identify them, locate their relatives, or to take them to a shelter home so that they could be registered for vaccination.
Singh also said that over 21,000 urban homeless people across the country had been registered for vaccination and more than 8,000 of them were inoculated against COVID-19. The Maharashtra government’s counsel, Gita Shastri, submitted an affidavit stating that a total of 1,761 mentally ill people across the state had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, the bench noted that the state’s affidavit was “silent” on the number of mentally ill people who were homeless, without legal guardians, and not in a position to give their informed consent for vaccination.
Such people posed a greater risk of spreading the coronavirus and therefore, must be identified and vaccinated by the state authorities at the earliest, the court said. “Every citizen, no matter in which condition, needs to be taken care of by the state,” the HC said.
“File an affidavit stating how many mentally ill people who are homeless or found wandering in the community, and what steps are being taken to vaccinate them?” the court said to the state government. The court suggested that the state and the BMC could jointly set up a mechanism to identify and vaccinate such homeless and mentally ill people.