Row over CDR collection of Covid-19 patients: Kerala police retracts decision in high court

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The Kerala government has retracted its decision regarding collection of telephone call detail record of coronavirus patients as part of contract tracing.

The government changed its stand when the high court took up a petition filed by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala challenging a circular issued by the state police chief for collecting phone call data of the patients and the suspects.

When the petition was taken up for hearing on Wednesday, August 19, thee counsel for the police said that  the police were not collecting CDRs but only tower locations of the patients to ensure that a quarantined person was not moving outside the quarantine centre.

However, the court expressed doubt how the agency could collect the tower location without taking the call details. The court has asked the respondents to file an explanation by Friday, when it would take up the petition for further hearing.

The opposition leader had pointed out in his petition that the police was collecting CDR of patients and suspects without their consent maintaining that such collection of CDR is in total violation of fundamental rights of privacy of the patients guaranteed under Article 21.

The state government has a constitutional obligation to ensure that fundamental rights of every citizen, including those under isolation due to COVID-19 is protected, said the petition filed through advocate T Asaf Ali said.

It is particularly so when the patients are in a vulnerable situation, unable to give consent, and whose voluntariness or understanding is compromised due to their situational condition. At present, they are not in a position to resort to any legal remedies for the injuries suffered by them on account of the illegal acts of the authorities, it is contended in the petition.

State government and its officials do not have any right or authority to collect CDRs of COVID-19 patients and the actions taken pursuant to the circular is illegal, void, and unenforceable, the opposition leader contends.

There is every chance of misuse by undesirable elements for their commercial gain and personal pecuniary advantage when CDRs of patients and suspects are collected and entrusted to a third party for storage, the petitioner points out.

Patients and those undergoing quarantine will have to experience social and psychological harm due to disclosure of CDR details to strangers, the petition said while seeking to quash the circular. An order to the state police chief and his subordinates restraining them from collecting CDRs of COVID-19 patients and suspects is also sought.

 

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