Kerala Congress leader challenge Arogya Setu App in high court

South India


A petition was filed in Kerala high court on Friday challenging the directions issued by the Central government to make 'Aarogya Setu' app mandatory for government and private sector employees.

The petition, filed by Thrissur District Congress Committee general secretary John Daniel through advocates Sriram Parakkat K S Sripathi and Anupama Subramanian, said that such directions were a violation of the right to privacy and personal autonomy.

The plea said the order "takes away the right of a person to decide and control the use of information pertaining to him. The Union Home Ministry order making the use of app mandatory imposed penal action if the directives for download were not complied with.

The petitioner said that even in times of emergency, people's privacy needs to be protected. "This law stems from the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India’s landmark judgement in KS Puttaswamy (Retd) and Anr v Union of India [ (2017) 10 SCC 1]. Specifically, it clearly states that even when responding to an epidemic or public health crisis, there is an onus on the state to use people’s health information in a manner which preserves their “anonymity”," the petition says.

He further said that the app does not specify which department, ministry or officials would be accessing the data required by Aarogya Setu, which include the person's name, age, sex, phone number, profession, countries visited in the last 30 days, and whether the person is a smoker. Some of these classify as sensitive personal information.

Further, the petitioner points out that the role of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is not primary in the data collected and processed by Aarogya Setu. The committees formed to assess the impact and use of technology and AArogya Setu do not suggest involvement of the health ministry but has members from NITI Aayog, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Ministry of External Affairs, MHA and others.

The petition pointed out that the app also has a disclaimer that the Government cannot be held legally responsible should the Aarogya Setu app and accompanying services lead to errors in accurately identifying people who have tested positive for COVID-19, which has been flagged by Daniel in the petition.

The Congress leader has requested the Court to strike down the mandatory download clause for Aarogya Setu in the government's order. He has further asked for an "order or direction clarifying that the usage of the mobile application by the name, Arogya Setu is subject to the personal discretion of each citizen" (with inputs from agencies)

Image Credit: Zee Business


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