Supreme Court of India
Delhi Commission For Protection … vs Union Of India on 25 January, 2022Author: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud

Bench: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud, Sanjiv Khanna

WP(C) 572/2021



Writ Petition (Civil) No 572 of 2021

Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights Petitioner(s)


Union of India and Another Respondents


Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J

1 These proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution have been instituted

by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights 1. The specific reliefs

which have been sought concern the need to provide effective access to

vaccination to pregnant women and lactating mothers. These reliefs can

broadly be summarized as follows:

(i) Categorization of pregnant women and lactating mothers as belonging

to the high risk category to be given priority in vaccination;

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Date: 2022.02.02
16:44:12 IST
WP(C) 572/2021

(ii) Their inclusion in the vaccination drives and setting up of a task force to

operationalize a standard operating procedure 2 for monitoring of their

health post vaccination;

(iii) Developing educational materials and SOPs for women belonging to this

group to understand the effects of vaccination and ensure informed


(iv) Creation of a registry for vaccinated pregnant women and lactating

mothers to allow effective and constant monitoring of their health;

(v) Setting up of separate vaccination centers to protect this class of

persons from untoward infection;

(vi) Engaging Anganwadi centres and ASHA workers for vaccination drives

as a method of outreach particularly for women belonging to

underprivileged socio economic backgrounds; and

(vii) Providing an option on the Co-WIN portal so as to allow pregnant women

and lactating mothers to classify and identify themselves such that they

can be given priority while providing slots for vaccination.

2 Initially, a preliminary affidavit was filed on 2 October 2021 by the Additional

Commissioner in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare 3. The

affidavit has detailed out steps taken for (i) constituting the National

2 “SOP”
3 “MoHFW”
WP(C) 572/2021

Technical Advisory Group on Immunization 4 and National Expert Group on

Vaccination Administration for Covid-195; (ii) steps taken for supporting the

vaccination of pregnant women; (iii) steps taken for tracking Adverse Events

Following Immunization6; and (iv) support provided through vaccination

centres and ASHA and Anganwadi workers. The affidavit states that:

(i) Initially, pregnant women and lactating mothers were not eligible for

the COVID-19 vaccination as there was no sufficient evidence regarding

its safety and efficacy. Subsequently, the World Health Organization and

other experts recommended that the benefits of the vaccine for this

group outweigh its potential risks;

(ii) Based on the recommendations of experts, a national consultation was

held on the subject with representatives of State Governments, medical

colleges, Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India

(FOGSI), NGOs, among others, to gain consensus on the subject of

vaccinating pregnant women and lactating mothers and spreading

awareness regarding the vaccination drive;

(iii) The MoHFW approved the vaccination of pregnant women on 2 July

2021 and vaccination for lactating mothers was approved on 19 May

2021. Operational guidelines for vaccination of pregnant women were

released on 2 July 2021, which recommended that all pregnant women

visiting for antenatal care should be informed of the risks and benefits

6 “AEFI”
WP(C) 572/2021

of COVID-19 vaccines and their likely side effects;

(iv) The MoHFW has directed all States and Union Territories to engage with

professional bodies such as FOGSI, Indian Medical Association, Indian

Academy of Paediatrics, National Neonatology Forum;

(v) Since the full impact of the vaccines on pregnancy outcomes for the

woman and the fetus are unclear, all AEFIs are monitored through a

well-structured and robust surveillance system. For this purpose,

National AEFI Surveillance Operational Guidelines and COVID-19

Operational Guidelines have been formulated;

(vi) A causality assessment is conducted by the designated AEFI committee

and AEFI amongst the beneficiaries of vaccination are reported by the

vaccinator or District Immunization Officer through the Co-WIN portal;

(vii) A multi-centric project to study and document the adverse events

occurring in pregnant women vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine is

being initiated across the country;

(viii) All pregnant women who are vaccinated are line-listed on the Co-WIN

portal with their demographic details and any AEFI reported is also

entered on the portal to ensure that a tracking mechanism is


(ix) As regards the vaccination drive for pregnant women and lactating

mothers, States/UTs have been advised that they may prioritize
WP(C) 572/2021

vaccination through strategies like dedicated time period for

vaccination of pregnant women and lactating mothers, designate

special days for their vaccination, and identify centres for vaccination

of this group;

(x) ASHA and Anganwadi workers form a critical support system as frontline

workers by linking the vaccine beneficiaries and the service providers.

Thus, dedicated Information Education Communication material has

been developed for frontline workers (including ASHA and Anganwadi

workers and vaccinators); and

(xi) An option has been provided on the Co-WIN portal to identify a woman

as pregnant to ensure the woman can get vaccinated at the nearest


3 On 3 December 2021, this Court directed the petitioner to formulate

concrete suggestions to strengthen the existing framework of vaccination of

pregnant women and lactating mothers and share it with the Union

Government. The petitioner shared these suggestions and thereafter, a

further affidavit dated 13 January 2022 has been filed by the Union

Government which has particularly dealt with AEFIs and the mechanism for

identification of pregnant women and lactating mothers, in response to the

petitioner’s suggestions. The affidavit states that:

(i) Regarding the declaration and identification of pregnant women and

lactating mothers at the time of vaccination, only a verbal declaration,

on a purely voluntary basis, is required regarding the status of
WP(C) 572/2021

pregnancy/lactation, which can be verified at the time of vaccination.

Once the declaration is made, the vaccinator provides the beneficiary

with information about risks of COVID-19 infection in pregnancy, the

benefits and side-effects of vaccination;

(ii) The guidelines issued by MoHFW require reporting of any suspected

AEFI irrespective of the time interval between the day of vaccination

and the day of onset of symptoms. Thus, there is no time limitation for

reporting AEFIs;

(iii) The current AEFI surveillance system collects data of all adverse events

related to COVID-19 vaccine beneficiaries, including pregnant women or

lactating mothers. Under this system, (a) the District Immunization

Officers have been instructed to set up a network with private hospitals

to report AEFIs; (b) training has been given to State officers, medical

officers, private practitioners and frontline health workers on their role

in AEFI surveillance; (c) Auxiliary Nurse Midwifes at block/planning unit

have been instructed to notify all AEFIs and medical officers have been

instructed to look for any patterns; (d) pregnant women are being given

antenatal care services through government or private health care


(iv) Medical treatment is being provided free of cost to beneficiaries who

suffer AEFIs in all government health institutions. States/UTs have been

asked to identify at least one AEFI management centre in each block.
WP(C) 572/2021

Additionally, MoHFW has established a patient to doctor telemedicine


(v) Regarding the publication of data, the affidavit states that once the

causality assessment is done, the data regarding AEFIs is made

available in public domain on the website of MoHFW. Since all AEFIs

following vaccination may not be causally linked to the vaccination,

publication of data without causality assessment is inappropriate as it

may increase vaccination hesitancy; and

(vi) Regarding the creation of the specific filter on the Co-WIN portal for

pregnant women and lactating mothers, the affidavit states that this

group has to be identified and counselled before the vaccination and

there is no method of verification at the time of booking of slots.

4 We have heard Ms Vrinda Grover, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the

petitioner and Ms Aishwarya Bhati, learned Additional Solicitor General. An

intervention application has been filed by Mr Ambar H Koiri, who is

represented by Mr Nilesh Ojha.

5 During the course of her submissions, Ms Vrinda Grover, learned counsel has

submitted that the affidavits which have been filed by the Union of India

would substantially resolve the concerns which have been raised in the

petition. Learned counsel submitted that DCPCR instituted these

proceedings with the object of ensuring that vaccination for pregnant women

and lactating mothers is taken up on a priority.
WP(C) 572/2021

6 The decision to enable vaccination for lactating mothers was taken on 19

May 2021 while the decision to permit vaccination for pregnant women was

announced on 2 July 2021. The Court has been apprised of the fact that in

taking these decisions, the Government has been guided by its own expert

groups as well as by a consensus which has evolved at the international

level through the World Health Organization.

7 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners has highlighted three

concerns which, according to the petitioners, remain and which may be

addressed at a suitable level by the government. We shall outline the

concerns which have been presented during the course of the oral

submissions by Ms Vrinda Grover, seriatim:

Firstly, it has been submitted that the framework for vaccination of pregnant

women and lactating mothers envisages a voluntary verbal declaration by

the person who seeks vaccination, at the time of registration. In this context,

it has been submitted that the woman who visits a vaccination centre may

not necessarily be aware of the need to make such a declaration and in the

event that she is not informed by the personnel at the vaccination centre,

the recording of her status either as a pregnant woman or lactating mother

may remain to be incorporated in the data set. Hence, it has been submitted

that if the Co-WIN portal is suitably modified so as to incorporate a

declaration at the time of registration, this would facilitate the monitoring of

the health of the vaccinated woman or mother, as the case may be.
WP(C) 572/2021

Secondly, it has been suggested that in order to further support the

surveillance measures which have been instituted by the government for

monitoring AEFIs, targeted tracking of pregnant women and lactating

mothers can be considered so as to bolster the process of monitoring.

Thirdly, it has been emphasized that when adequate data sets become

available, the publication of data will enhance the confidence in the process

of vaccination.

8 Ms Aishwarya Bhati, learned Additional Solicitor General while responding to

the above suggestions submitted that each of the three suggestions has

been carefully evaluated by experts within the Union Government. The

Additional Solicitor General submits that in the ongoing process where

decisions are being continuously evolved, the government has certain

concerns over implementing the suggestions at the present stage but, is

open to further deliberation with the expert bodies.

9 On the first aspect in particular, it has been submitted that with the process

of walk-in-registration, the registration on the Co-WIN portal has become

subsidiary. However, it has been submitted that the reason why it was

believed that a verbal declaration at the time of vaccination would suffice

was to ensure that no person is dissuaded from seeking vaccination by

introducing an additional column at the time of registration. On targeted

tracking, it has been submitted that a robust mechanism has already been

put into place by the Union Government. As regards the publication of data,

it has been submitted that at this stage, such a proposal may be premature,
WP(C) 572/2021

but the Union Government is seized of the issue. Moreover, it has been

submitted that the publication of raw data may not be appropriate and the

data is published after due scrutiny and assessment by experts.

10 This Court is cognizant that the suggestions which have been made on

behalf of the petitioners do raise issues of policy. For instance, any mandate

for disclosure at the stage of registration has to factor in and balance

concerns over the privacy of the person. There may well not be one answer

or a single acceptable solution particularly because pregnant women and

lactating mothers belong to different social and economic strata. The

government has to take a decision bearing mind their welfare, safety and

dignity. Likewise, the need to further enhance the existing protocols for

monitoring AEFIs can be carefully evaluated by the expert groups. The

Additional Solicitor General has already stated that data is placed in the

public domain after being scrutinized at an expert level within the

government. The suggestions made before the Court have emanated from a

statutory body. They can be considered with the same sense of cooperation

which has pervaded the judicial process during the hearing of the present


11 The three suggestions which have been made by the petitioners would

undoubtedly involve an application of domain knowledge by experts in the

area. The Court may not be in the best position to take a decision unaided by

an expert determination. Hence, we are of the view that having regard to the

inclination which has been shown by the Union Government, it would be
WP(C) 572/2021

appropriate if the three suggestions which have been outlined earlier are

duly placed before the concerned expert groups as set out in the affidavit of

the Union Government so that the suggestions can be deliberated upon at a

policy level at an appropriate stage. This Court has constituted a National

task Force previously comprised of eminent experts from across the country

and the Union Government may engage with them as well to seek

suggestions for eliciting its views and suggestions in the area. We appreciate

the steps which have been taken by DCPCR in moving these proceedings

and equally, the sense of responsibility with which suggestions have been

made and discussed both by Ms Vrinda Grover appearing for DCPCR and by

Ms Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General appearing for the Union

Government in the course of these proceedings.

12 Leaving it open to the Union of India to take a considered view after

evaluating the suggestions, we dispose of the petition.

13 We further note that Mr Nilesh Ojha, counsel appearing on behalf of the

intervenor, has urged before this Court that the intervenor has conducted

studies which reflect that COVID-19 vaccines pose a risk to pregnant women

or the fetus. On this basis, the intervenor has sought a direction from this

Court to stop the administration of vaccination to pregnant women. The

issues raised by the intervenor clearly lie in the policy domain and this Court

cannot take medical decisions regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccination

among pregnant and lactating persons. The affidavits of the Union of India
WP(C) 572/2021

indicate that NTAGI and NEGVAC have taken great care in recommending

vaccination for these groups only after receiving guidance from the World

Health Organization and other domain experts. Thus, we do not find it

necessary to issue any directions to the Union Government as regards this

intervention application.

14 Pending applications, if any, stand disposed of.

[Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]

[Sanjiv Khanna]

New Delhi;
January 25, 2022
WP(C) 572/2021

ITEM NO.13 Court 4 (Video Conferencing) SECTION PIL-W

Writ Petition (Civil) No.572/2021



UNION OF INDIA & ANR. Respondent(s)

(With appln.(s) for IA No.63258/2021 – EXEMPTION FROM FILING

Date : 25-01-2022 These matters were called on for hearing today.


For Petitioner(s) Ms. Vrinda Grover, Adv.
Mr. Kumar Shanu, Adv.
Mr. Soutik Banerjee, Adv.
Ms. Ayushi Rajput, Adv.
Ms. Rangoli Seth, Adv. Mr. Prateek K Chadha, AOR

For Respondent(s) Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, ASG
Mr. Gurmeet Singh Makker, AOR
Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv.
Mr. Kanu Agrawal, Adv.
Ms. Deepabali Dutta, Adv.
Mr. Ketan Paul, Adv.

For Intervener Mr. Nilesh C. Ojha, Adv.
WP(C) 572/2021

Mr. Prem Sunder Jha, AOR
Mr. Ishwarlal S. Agarwal, Adv.
Ms. Dipali N. Ojha, Adv.
Mr. Pratik Jain Saklecha, Adv.
Mr. Shivam Mehra, Adv.
Mr. Abhishek Mishra, Adv.
Ms. Sidhi A. Dhamnaskar, Adv.
Ms. Snehal S. Surve, Adv.
Ms. Poonam S. Rajbhar, Adv.
Ms. Deepika G. Jaiswal, Adv.
Mr. Mangesh B. Dongre, Adv.
Mr. Pritam Bishwas, Adv.
Mr. Anant Misra, Adv.

UPON hearing the counsel the Court made the following

1 The Petition is disposed of in terms of the signed reportable judgment.

2 Pending applications, if any, stand disposed of.

(Signed reportable judgment is placed on the file)


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