NEW DELHI: Maintaining that there was no legal compulsion to get Covid-19 vaccine, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that the State can't be fastened with strict liability to pay compensation in case of adverse impact of death as those jabs have been manufactured by third parties.
"The Union of India along with the various State/ UT Governments have only administered the National Covid-19 Vaccination Program. The vaccines in use under the vaccination program are manufactured by third parties and have successfully undergone thorough regulatory review in India as well as other nations, being recognised globally as safe and effective," it said.
"In these facts, holding the State directly liable to provide compensation under the narrow scope of strict liability for extremely rare deaths occurring due to AEFIs (Adverse Events Following Immunization) from the use of vaccines may not be legally sustainable," it added.
In an affidavit, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that if a person suffers physical injury or death from an AEFI, appropriate remedies in law are open to the vaccine beneficiary 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 deaths were tragic but the government could not be held liable.
The Union government's response came on a plea filed by Rachna Gangu and another person, parents of two girls who had passed away due to side effects of the Covid vaccine.
The Ministry also said though the government strongly encourages all eligible persons to undertake vaccination in public interest, there is no legal compulsion for it.
According to the counsel for petitioners' submitted that the 18-years-old daughter of the first petitioner received the first dose of Covishield Covid-19 vaccine in May 2021 and lost her life in June 2021. On the other hand, the 20-years-old daughter of the second petitioner received the first dose of Covishield Covid-19 vaccine in June 2021, and she lost her life in July 2021.
"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. To the contrary, this affidavit showed how the Government of India has made substantial efforts in ensuring a safe National COVID-19 Vaccination Program," it said.
The government further said as on September 30, 2022, there have been a total of 26 AEFI cases of TTS (Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome) reported in India, out of which in 14 cases, the individual recovered after hospitalisation and in 12 cases the individuals have passed away. The reporting rate of TTS in India is 0.001 per one lakh doses administered, making it an extremely rare event, it added.