Is Aadhaar mandatory for prisoners to get Covid-19 vaccine, asks Bombay HC

Is Aadhaar mandatory for prisoners to get Covid-19 vaccine, asks Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government to clarify if an Aadhaar card was mandatory for prisoners to get the vaccine against Covid-19.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) taken up suo motu on containing the spread of Covid-19 in prisons across Maharashtra.

The court observed that an Aadhaar card is important for identifying the person being administered the Covid-19 vaccination and for the purpose of maintaining a nationwide database. However, the court noted that the central and state governments should find a solution for vaccinating citizens across the country, especially prisoners, who may not have an Aadhaar card.

The court was informed by Professor Vijay Raghavan of Tata Institute of Social Services that several prisoners were missing inoculation due to lack of a valid Aadhaar card.

The court further observed, “Those who don’t have an Aadhaar card, they are not getting vaccinated. As a matter of policy, please decide. On the ground that you do not have an Aadhaar card and you are not vaccinated. That cannot be the situation,” said Chief Justice Datta.

The high court also asked the Maharashtra government if there was any mechanism to identify whether a prisoner had an Aadhaar card or not.

“Let us say an accused is asked by the magistrate whether he has an Aadhaar card or not, and he says no, then what can be done about it? Can you not check?”, the court said.

Referring to the practice of collecting biometric data of individuals travelling abroad, the court asked if some similar mechanism can be used to verify whether an accused has an Aadhaar card or not.

Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state government, responded that the issue of Aadhaar-for-vaccination was a pressing issue in most jails as some prisoners were foreign nationals.

“They can’t have Aadhaar. The jail authorities have already written to central as well as state authorities about this issue of mandatory Aadhaar card for vaccine”, he said.

Making the Aadhaar card mandatory for prisoners for the vaccine was an “important policy issue that would have pan-India ramifications”, the high court observed.

The court also asked if it was possible to hold vaccination camps inside prisons.

The high court directed AG Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to discuss the issue with the Centre’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, and inform the court on May 4, the next date of hearing.