Covid vaccines manufactured by third parties, govt can’t be held liable for deaths: Centre to SC

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the vaccines in use under the Covid vaccination programme are manufactured by third parties and they are recognised as safe and effective, and there is no material to suggest how the state can be fastened with strict liability for the tragic deaths of the respective children of the petitioners.

New Delhi, Nov 28 : The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the vaccines in use under the Covid vaccination programme are manufactured by third parties and they are recognised as safe and effective, and there is no material to suggest how the state can be fastened with strict liability for the tragic deaths of the respective children of the petitioners.

The Centre also emphasised that there is no legal compulsion to get Covid-19 vaccine.

The Centre’s response came on a plea filed by the parents of two girls who had passed away owing to side-effects of the Covid vaccine.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in an affidavit, said: “There is no material to suggest how the state can be fastened with strict liability for the tragic death of the respective children of the petitioners which is the requirement in law to sustain a claim for compensation against the state under Article 32 of the Constitution.”

The ministry said the vaccines in use under the vaccination programme are manufactured by third parties and have successfully undergone regulatory review in India as well as other nations, being recognised globally as safe and effective.

“Under these facts, it is most humbly submitted that holding the state directly liable to provide compensation under the narrow scope of strict liability for extremely rare deaths occurring due to AEFI (Adverse Events Following Immunisation) from the use of vaccines may not be legally sustainable,” it said.

The Health Ministry added that if a person suffers physical injury or death from an AEFI, appropriate remedies in law are open to the vaccine beneficiaries or their family, including approaching civil courts for a claim of damages/compensation for negligence, malfeasance or misfeasance.

Such claims may be determined on a case-to-case basis in an appropriate forum, it said, adding that the deaths were tragic but the government could not be held liable.

In the affidavit filed on November 23, the Health Ministry said that though the government strongly encourages all eligible persons to take vaccine in public interest, there is no legal compulsion for the same.

The government’s response came on a plea filed by the parents, represented by advocate Satya Mitra, of two girls who had passed away owing to side-effects of Covid vaccine.

In August, the apex court had issued notice to the Centre on the parents’ plea, which sought a probe by an independent committee into the deaths, along with the release of the autopsy and probe reports in a time-bound manner. The petitioners also sought monetary compensation, and directions for guidelines for early detection and treatment of persons suffering from adverse side-effects of Covid vaccines.

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that the 18-year-old daughter of the first petitioner received the first dose of Covishield in May 2021 and died in June 2021. The 20-year-old daughter of the second petitioner received the first dose of Covishield in June 2021, and died in July 2021.

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