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DC doesn't read newspapers: HC flays Armstrong Pame for forced Covid-19 vaccination bid

High Court of Manipur

Court stayed Tamenglong DC’s August 2 order directing all the fair price shop agents to get themselves vaccinated before they undertake distribution of monthly rations, sought explanation for his contumacious stand

TFM Desk

The High Court of Manipur on Monday pulled up Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong Armstrong Pame for alleged violation of its interim order restraining the state government from imposing conditions to force people to get Covid-19 jab.

Following a PIL filed by Osbert Khaling through his counsel Carolin Kasar, the high court had on July 13 passed an interim order that without dispelling the fears amongst the people as to the effects of the Covid vaccination by educating them and erasing their apprehensions of adverse consequences, the State could not impose conditions to compel them to get vaccinated.

Despite this interim order, Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong Armstrong Pame had issued an order on August 2 directing all the fair price shop agents to get themselves vaccinated before they undertake distribution of monthly rations.

The petitioner raised the matter in the court and impleaded the Tamenglong DC as one of the respondents in the PIL.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar said to the defence counsel, “The interim order was all over the newspaper. So, your DC doesn’t read newspapers.”

“Though the DC has already filed an affidavit-in-opposition on August 23, we are of the opinion that an additional affidavit would be required from him explaining his stand,” said the HC bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir.

The bench observed that the DC states, on the one hand, that vaccination amongst the general public is not made mandatory, but on the other hand, by his August 2 order, he saw it fit to impose measures to compel vaccination of FPS agents.

“Significantly, those FPS Agents who have not been vaccinated are denied permission to distribute monthly rations and such distribution is directed to be carried out by the nearest FPS Agent, who fulfilled the condition of getting himself vaccinated. In effect, the general public who obtain their monthly rations from a particular unvaccinated agent will now have to travel long distances to secure such rations from a vaccinated FPS agent,” it said.

Describing the order intimidatory, the bench said such measures to compel people to take the vaccination against their will cannot be sustained.

“It is for the state to adopt and advocate suitable measures and systems to educate people so that they willingly come forward and avail the facility of vaccination but without resorting to such steps, the authorities cannot individually come up with their own tactics to pressurize those who are unwilling to take the vaccination to do so under threat,” stated the bench.

Staying the Tamenglong DC’s August 2 order, the high court directed him to file an additional affidavit explaining his contumacious stand and posted the matter to September 7.

Contempt of court proceedings against Bishnupur DC

Speaking of the Frontier Manipur, Osbert Khaling, who filed the PIL, said a legal notice was also served on Bishnupur Deputy Commissioner Krishna Kumar for contempt of court proceedings. The DC was given two-day time to withdraw his August 21 order directing all district-level officers (DLOs) to direct the officials/staffs to get vaccinated by August 31, 2021, failing which contempt of court case will be filed against him, said Osbert Khaling.

Bishnupur DC had said his order that in case of non-compliance of this instruction, salary of un-vaccinated officials/staffs may be put on hold from next month i.e. September, 2021 till the time they get vaccinated.

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