Alleging harassment and coercion by the authorities of the state government, including colleges, the Constitutional Rights Forum (CRF) has written to the chief secretary of the state, seeking action against the college authorities over the issue of vaccination of eligible students of such institutions.
The CRF mentioned the June 23, 2020 order of the Meghalaya High Court, which had clearly stated that vaccination could not be forced on residents.
“The HC has said that no individual should be forced to take vaccination and the authority should not adopt any coercive method/measure to give vaccination to the individuals but sensitize the general public about the benefits of the same and the ramifications if not taken,” said the CRF in its complaint.
Maintaining that they were not against vaccination or the government for encouraging vaccination, the CRF said they were only against the use of force or coercion while doing so.
“We understand and appreciate the work of the government and its agencies who are risking lives to save others during the pandemic. We only ask the government to maintain balance and not compel anyone. They should be given the choice to do so as it otherwise infringes on our fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution,” said president, Greneth Sangma.
The CRF stated that they have received complaints from various quarters against the Principal of Capt Williamson Memorial Government College, Baghmara and Mendipathar College, the Sub-Divisional Officer of Chokpot, South Garo Hills, BDO of Gambegre, WGH and other district authorities in Meghalaya.
“These officers have been harassing residents for not taking the vaccine and most importantly refusing to provide any help or assistance to the needy if they are not vaccinated. Sensitization has not been done on a large scale and people are still reluctant to take vaccination due to ignorance. It is the duty of the authorities to shed light in order to eradicate fear from the general masses about vaccination, but these have not been initiated,” alleged secretary, Francis Marak.
The CRF felt that action needed to be taken on this front and people cannot be harassed in the name of vaccination as it infringes fundamental rights under Art 14 and 21. Instead sensitization was the need of the hour, they felt.