The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in lockdown across the country in all spheres of activities. However, even during such challenging times, the judiciary has continued its function by evolving to a virtual system of adjudication. The present articles summarises some of the orders passed by the Supreme Court and various High Courts during the first phase of the lockdown. This article forms part of a series where we analyse the judicial activities during the different phases of lockdown.
1. E-auction of properties during lock-down stayed
Case Number: W.P. No. 6632 of 2020
Forum: Karnataka High Court (Justice Mr. G. Narendar)
Date of Order: 24.03.2020
Challenge in brief: The Petitioners challenged the action of Respondent Banks of conducting auction sale of their properties. It was contended that despite the present lockdown, the Bankers have been receiving bids from various interested parties in respect of the properties. The same constitutes a violation of the Lock-down order issued by the Government
Order: It was prima facie observed that any activity by any of the Departments beyond the exceptions provided under the Government Order dated 23.03.2020, including the holding of auctions by Banks, would constitute a violation of the Government Order entailing prosecution. Thus, the Court deferred the proposed auction activities till the restrictions imposed under the Government Order in respect of the lockdown are revoked.
2. Being critical of government cannot entail police action
Name of the case: Dr.Indranil Khan v. State of West Bengal & Ors.
Case Number: W.P. No. 5326(W) of 2020
Forum: Calcutta High Court (Justice Mr. I.P. Mukherji)
Date of Order: 01.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Petitioner (medical practitioner) had made several Facebook posts alleging that deficient protective gears were supplied by the government to its doctors attending COVID‐19 virus affected patients in its hospitals. For such posts, he was charged under section 153A of the IPC for the offence of causing disharmony and feeling of hatred which disturb public tranquillity. The Police authorities had interrogated him and seized his mobile phone and sim-card. By way of the writ petition, the Petitioner had challenged the actions of the Police Authority.
Order: The High Court observed that an expression of opinion that can cause disrepute to the government cannot be met with such intimidation of the person expressing the opinion by subjecting him to prolonged interrogation, threatening arrest seizing his mobile phone and SIM card. Such methods can be used only in case if a person utilizes this freedom by maliciously circulating material with a view to cause damage to another person or to the public at large or the nation. The liberty of the petitioner can only be curtailed by orders of the court passed in a properly instituted proceeding
In the present case none of these ingredients were fulfilled and therefore the Police Authority was directed to immediately return the mobile phone and SIM card of the petitioner. The Authority was further directed that no interrogation shall be initiated without the leave of the court.
3. Movement of persons for procurement of food for animals is permitted during lockdown
Name of the case: N.Prakashv. State of Kerala and Anr.
Case Number: W.P. (C). TMP-28 OF 2020
Forum: Kerala High Court (Justice Mr. A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Hon'ble Justice Mr. Shaji P. Chaly)
Date of Order: 06.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Petitioner had challenged the denial of vehicle pass to venture out and purchase "Meo-Persian" biscuits for his cats. The Petitioner contended that these biscuits are essential food-items for his cats. Reliance was placed on judgment of the Supreme Court in Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja – 2014 (7) SCC 547 to contend that animals have a fundamental right to life, under Article 21 of the Constitution. Hence, the police authorities cannot refuse him a pass for procuring cat food. Further, as per the guidelines issued by the Central Government in the Ministry of Home Affairs, "animal feed and fodder" have been included as "essential items" in respect of which movement is permitted during the lockdown period.
Order: The Court observed that several statutes such as the IPC and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation of Animal Health provide for the welfare of animals in addition to making it a punishable offence to kill or injure any animal. Further, introduction of Article 51 A (g), has led to a renewed interpretation of the provisions of the 1960 Act by casting a fundamental duty on every citizen to have compassion for living creatures.
A citizen's choice to rear pets is traceable to his fundamental right to privacy as recognised by the Apex Court in Puttaswamy's case, which in turn is a facet of his right under Article 21. The Writ Petition was allowed and the Respondents were directed to permit the petitioner to travel to Kadavanthara, Kochi, to procure the said item of cat food, on his producing a self-declaration stating the purpose of his travel.
4. Banks cannot classify firms as NPA during the lock-down
Name of the case: Anant Raj Ltd. v. Yes Bank Ltd.
Case Number: W.P.(C) Urgent 5/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Justice Mr. A.K. Sanjeev Sachdeva)
Challenge in brief: The Petitioner had approached the Court seeking a direction against Yes Bank from taking coercive/adverse steps against the Petitioner including but not limited to declaring the account of the petitioner as a Non-Performing Asset (NPA). The Petitioner contended that it failed to pay instalment which fell due on 01.01.2020 (the subject matter of the present petition) because of adverse economic conditions brought about by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Order: The High Court held that classification of the account of the Petitioner as NPA cannot be done in view of the RBI Circular related to moratorium of loan repayment. The Court held that prima-facie reading of the of the Statement on Development and Regulatory Policies issued by RBI on 27.03.20200 along with the Regulatory Package indicates the intention of RBI to maintain status quo, as on 01.03.2020, for all accounts. The Court further observed that before classification of NPA, an account has to be classified as SMA-2 and any account which is classified as SMA-2 on 01.03.2020 cannot be further downgraded to an NPA after the issuance of the notification. The status has to be maintained as it was on 01.03.2020.Thus, the Court granted interim protection from the account being declared as NPA. However, it was clarified that stipulated interest and penal charges shall continue to accrue on the outstanding payment even during the moratorium period.
5. Steel Importers cannot take recourse of force-majeure due to Lockdown
Name of the case: Standard Retail Pvt. Ltd. v. M/s. G.S. Global Corp & Ors.
Case Number: CAP (L) No. 404 of 2020
Forum: Bombay High Court (Justice Mr. A.A. Sayed)
Date of Order: 08.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Petitioners filed the writ petition under section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act for restraining the Respondent–Bank from negotiating/ encashing the Letters of Credit. The Petitioner contended that due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown declared by the Central/State Government, the contract entered between the Petitioners and Respondents became unenforceable on account of frustration, impossibility and impracticability.
Order: The Court denied the grant of any ad-interim relief to the Petitioners on grounds that the Letters of Credit are an independent transaction with the Bank and the Bank is not concerned with underlying disputes between the parties. The Court further observed that the Force Majeure clause contained in the contract is only available to the Respondent and not the Petitioners. The Respondent has performed its obligations for supply of steel and merely because Petitioners cannot perform its contract qua its purchasers cannot discharge its obligations towards Respondent. In any event, the lockdown would be for a limited period, therefore it cannot come to the rescue of the Petitioners so as to resile from its contractual obligations with Respondent No. 1 of making payments, more so considering that import of steel was an essential item.
6. Supreme Court issues guidelines for fixation of rates for Covid-19 testing
Name of the case: Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India & Ors.
Case Number: W.P. No. (D. No.) 10816 of 2020
Forum: Supreme Court (Justice Mr. Ashok Bhushan and Hon'ble Justice Mr. S. Ravindra Bhat)
Date of Order: 13.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Petition was filed challenging the advisory guidelines issued by ICMR fixing the rate of testing for covid-19 at a maximum ceiling of Rs. 4500. The Petitioner had contended that many citizens cannot afford testing because of the prices and thus the testing should be made free. The Court had initially passed an order directing all tests to be conducted for free. However, an Application was moved in the matter seeking for modification of the order.
Order: The Hon'ble Court modified its earlier order related to free testing for all patients and issued the following directions such as free testing facility for persons covered under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojan. Matters as to whether such benefit can be estended to economically weaker sections of the society was left open for consideration by the Governments. The Court also directed that private Labs shall continue to charge the payment for testing of COVID-19 from persons who are able to make payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR.
7. Supreme Court issues guidelines for ensuring safety and welfare of children in protection homes
Name of the case: In Re Contagion of Covid-19 virus in children protection homes
Case Number: Suo Moto Writ Petition (Civil) No. 4 of 2020
Forum: Supreme Court ( Justice Mr. L. Nageswara Rao and Hon'ble Justice Mr. Deepak Gupta)
Date of Order: 03.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The petition was moved suo moto by the Court for ensuring the safety of children kept in various types of homes such as foster and kinship care and homes under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
Order: The Hon'ble Court issued a slew of directions to various authorities concerned with the welfare of children such as Child Welfare Committees, Governments, CCIs to ensure their safety and welfare including taking preventive measures, conducting regular counselling and monitoring, creating awareness, promote and demonstrate positive hygiene behaviours.
8. Regular bail applications to be entertained only in exceptional urgent circumstances
Name of the case: Sopan Ramesh Lanjrekar v. State of Maharashtra
Case Number: Cri Bail Application No. 691 of 2020 [2020 SCC Online Bom 468]
Forum: Bombay High Court (Justice Mr. A.M. Badar)
Challenge in brief: The Application was filed under section 439 of the CrPC seeking bail for offences punishable under Section 420, 409 read with Section 3 of the IPC. The limited question before the Court was whether the present bail application could be considered as 'urgent' and any orders should be passed.
Order: While examining the process involved in disposing the bail application, the Court was of the prima facie opinion that once a bail writ is issued, several staff members of the concerned court and other department of the State are required to complete various formalities. Due to the present lockdown situation all offices including the offices of the court are virtually closed. Bare minimum staff is deputed to deal with urgent business. In such situation, processing of a bail would amount to breach of the order of lockdown. In view of such situation, unless the Court is satisfied that there exist exceptional urgent circumstances, regular bail applications ought not be entertained. Mere fact that the accused is undergoing detention does not constitute urgency.
9. Supreme Court issues guidelines for ensuring safety and well-being of healthcare professionals during Covid – 19.
Name of the case: Jerryl Banait v. Union of India & Anr.
Case Number: WP (Civil) Diary No. 10795 of 2020 [2020 SCC Online SC 357]
Forum: Supreme Court (Justice Mr. Ashok Bhushan and Justice Mr. S. Ravindra Bhat)
Challenge in brief: The present Writ Petition was filed a medical professional under Article 32 of the Constitution of India as a Public Interest Litigation praying for various directions in reference to pandemic COVID-19, specifically in connection with safety and well-being of healthcare professionals.
Order: The Court issued the following interim directions to the respondents in reference to pandemic COVID-19 such as ensuring availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, providing necessary Police security to the Doctors and medical staff in Hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed and take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by Doctors, medical staff and other Government Officials deputed to contain COVID-19.
10. Period of the moratorium during which there is a lockdown will not be reckoned by Banks for the purposes of computation of the 90-day NPA declaration period
Name of the case: Transcon Skycity Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. v. ICICI& Ors.
Case Number: WP LD VC No. 28 of 2020
Forum: Supreme Court (Hon'ble Justice Mr. G.S. Patel)
Date of Order: 11.04.2020
Challenge in brief: Whether the moratorium period is excluded in the computation of the 90-day period for determining NPA for amounts that fell due prior to 1st March 2020 and which remain unpaid or in default..
Order: The Court at the outset observed that its scope for adjudication, at that particular juncture, was restricted only to the aspect of urgent ad-interim relief and issues like maintainability were kept open for adjudication at an appropriate time.
The Court held that the period during which there is a lockdown will not be reckoned by ICICI Bank for the purposes of computation of the 90-day NPA declaration period. If the lockdown is lifted at an earlier date than 31.05.2020, then this protection will cease on the date of lifting of the lockdown and the computing and reckoning of the remainder of the 90-day period will start from that earlier lifting of the lockdown-ending date. The moratorium period of 01.03.2020 to 31.05.2020 under the RBI Covid-19 regulatory package does not per se give the Petitioners any additional benefits in regard to the prior defaults, i.e. those that occurred before 1st March 2020. Thus, the relief to the Petitioners is co-terminus with the lockdown period. The Court also opined that this order will not serve as a precedent for any other case in regard to any other borrower who is in default or any other bank. Each of these cases will have to be assessed on their own merits. The question as to whether Petitioners are entitled to the benefit of the entire moratorium period in respect of the prior defaults of January and February 2020 was left open.
11. Supreme Court rejects nationalisation of health care sector.
Name of the case: Amit Dwivedi v. Union of India & Anr.
Case Number: WP (Civil) Diary No. 10892 of 2020
Forum: Supreme Court (Hon'ble Justice Mr. Ashok Bhushan and Hon'ble Justice Mr. S. Ravindra Bhat)
Challenge in brief: The Writ Petition was filed praying for issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the Central Government and all State Governments, Union Territories and other concerned authorities to nationalize all health care facilities, all institutes, all companies and all entities related to health care sector situated in the territory of the Union of India and their respective territories till the pandemic COVID-19 is contained.
Order: The Court dismissed the Writ Petition by holding that the prayer is misconceived and no such prayer can be issued.
12. Employers shall be at liberty to deduct wages on account of voluntary absence of workers from the duty.
Name of the case: Align Components Pvt. Ltd., and another Vs. Union of India and others.
Case Number: Writ Petition Stamp No.10569 of 2020
Forum: Bombay High Court (Justice Mr. Ravindra V.Ghuge)
Date of Order: 30.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Writ Petition was filed challenging the notification dated 29.03.2020 directing employers to pay monthly wages to workers. It was contended that on account of the restrictions imposed due to covid, the managements have been mandated to reduce/shut down their manufacturing activities. Therefore, it was prayed that the petitioners be exempted from paying monthly wages for the period of restriction of manufacturing activities.
Order: The Court observed that the issue is pending adjudication before the Apex Court. Therefore, in the interim, it did not interfere with the impugned notification. However, in the wake of partial uplifting of lockdown it was ordered that the workers in the zone where lockdown is lifted will have to report for their duties as per the shift schedules subject to adequate protection. In the event if such workers voluntarily remain absent, the Management would be at liberty to deduct their wages for such absence.
13. Invocation of Bank Guarantees cannot be restricted.
Name of the case: Indrajit Power Private Ltd. v. Union of India & Ors.
Case Number: Crl. M.A.10268-69/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Justice Mr. Suresh Kumar Kait)
Date of Order: 28.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Writ Petition was filed challenging the invocation of bank guarantee on account of non-achievement of milestones and efficiency parameters provided under the Coal Mine Development and Production Agreement executed between the parties.
Order: While taking into account various facts and circumstances of the case, the Hon'ble Court observed that the Petitioner was granted ample amount of time to comply with its obligations contained in the Agreement. The Court also took into the account legal principles governing invocation of bank guarantees whereby it is well settled that courts should be cautious in granting an injunction to restrain the realization of such a bank guarantee. Grant of Bank guarantee entitles the beneficiary to realize such amounts irrespective of any pending disputes. The bank giving such a guarantee is bound to honour it as per its terms irrespective of any dispute raised by its customer. The very purpose of giving such a bank a bank guarantee would otherwise be defeated. In light of the above, the Hon'ble Court dismissed the writ petition.
14. Schools shall not be barred from charging tuition fess during lockdown.
Name of the case: Naresh Kumar v. Director of Education & Anr.
Case Number: W.P. (C) 2993/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Hon'ble Chief Justice and Hon'ble Mr. Justice C. Hari Shankar)
Date of Order: 24.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The Writ Petition was filed challenging the order passed by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, seeking for modification of the said order in terms of granting complete exemption from payment of any fee, including tuition fee, at least for the period during which the presently existing lockdown continues to be in place.
Order: The Court observed that since schools are imparting education through online mode, they cannot be considered as 'closed' so as to disentitle them from charging fees under Rule 165 of the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973. Since during the lockdown, online education is being provided by the schools and availed of by the students, tuition fees cannot be exempted. However, the Court clarified that Rule 165 would continue to apply to ensure that fees would be payable only when it is possible to do so. Further, an obligation was casted upon the Department of Engineering for ensuring minimum misuse of the order.
15. State Government cannot defer the salary of employees through executive order
Name of the case: Kerela Vidyuthi Mazdoor Sangham & Anr. v. State of Kerala & Anr.
Case Number: W.P(C) TMP NO.182 OF 2020
Forum: Kerala High Court (Bench comprising of Justice Mr. Bechu Kurian Thomas)
Challenge in brief: The Writ Petition was filed by Government employees and unions challenging an executive order dated 23-04-2020 whereby the salaries of Government employees who are in receipt of a gross salary of above Rs. 20,000/- shall be subjected to a deferment of a small portion of their salary. It has been pleaded that the order was issued without authority of law and unconstitutional as being violative of Article 300A of the Constitution of India.
Order: The Hon'ble Court opined that the right to receive salary is a right vested in every individual by virtue of Article 309 and the respective Service Rules. Right to salary cannot be withheld/deferred, by the State Government, without authority of law. Neither the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 nor Disaster Management Act 2005 provide any justification to the issuance of the said impugned order. Financial difficulty faced by the Government cannot be a legal justification for defer the payment of salary by an executive order. Therefore, the Court ordered a stay on deferment of salary for a period of two months.
Following this order, the Kerala Government brought an Ordinance for deferment of salary. Though this was also challenged, the HC refused to stay the same, holding that Government is competent to bring Ordinance for deferring payment of salary.
16. Regulation of working hours of supermarkets and operation of state transport services is within the discretion of Government.
Name of the case: Sandhya U. Prabhu v. State of Karnataka & Ors.
Case Number: Writ Petition No.6671 OF 2020 (GM-RES-PIL)
Forum: Karnataka High Court (Bench comprising of Chief Justice A S Oka and Hon'ble Mrs. Justice B. V. Nagarathna)
Date of Order: 21.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The present writ petition was filed challenging the order passed by the Director General and Inspector of Police allowing super markets to function 24x7. It was alleged that the if the super markets are kept open 24x7, large number of people will enter the super markets and will touch the articles which are displayed for sale. This will result in spread of Covid-19. The Writ Petition also challenged the use of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses for facilitating transport of people for ensuring that a provision is made for rendering essential services. It was alleged that cleanliness is not maintained in BMTC buses and if permission to travel is granted to 20 passengers in a bus, it will again result in spread of Covid-19, therefore number of passengers should be reduced.
Order: The Court observed that decision to keep super markets open 24x7 relates to purely a policy decision. Depending upon the present state of affairs, it is upon the State Authorities to take a decision regarding the time during which grocery shops and super markets can be kept open. As far as the second challenge is concerned, the Court was of the opinion that there is nothing wrong, arbitrary or illegal in the decision taken to allow BMTC buses to be used for transportation of persons providing essential services.
17. Covid -19 testing kits not to be sold above Rs. 400/- per kit/test inclusive of GST
Name of the case: Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd. and Anr. v. Matrix Labs
Case Number: O.M.P.(I)(COMM) 93/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Justice Mr. Najmi Waziri)
Challenge in brief: The parties had entered into an agreement making the Petitioner an exclusive distributor of medical products including COVID 19 Rapid Test Kits imported into India by the respondent. The Petitioner had approached the Court seeking release of 7.24 lacs COVID 19 Rapid Test Kit and other COVID 19 related materials which have been imported and/or are being imported by the respondent from People's Republic of China. It was contended by the Petitioner that the monies are to be paid after the tests meet the requisite standards of the ICMR. The first consignment of 2.76 lakh tests was delivered to ICMR on 17th April 2020, for which invoice has been raised but the payment is awaited. The moment payment is received, it will be immediately remitted to the respondent. The Respondent contended that the import was on the understanding between the parties that there would be 100% upfront payment specifically for the consignment for ICMR.
Order: Considering the present emergency situation, the Hon'ble Court ordered that the 2.24 lakh tests shall be delivered to ICMR, the moment it lands into India. Further, the Respondent shall be given preference in payment before such monies are being adjusting for other payments. The Court was also conscious of the present circumstances where carrying out extensive tests has become the need of the hour. Therefore, it was ordered that the kits/test should be sold at a price not beyond Rs. 400/- per kit/test inclusive of GST.
18. Invocation of bank guarantees can be stayed on occurrence of event of 'special equities'.
Name of the case: M/s.Halliburton Offshore Services Inc. v. Vedanta Limited & Anr.
Case Number: O.M.P. (I) (COMM) & I.A. 3697/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Justice Mr. C. Hari Shankar)
Date of Order: 20.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The petition was filed under section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 seeking for interim protection, by way of a restraint, against Respondent No. 1, from invoking or encashing eight bank guarantees.
Order: The Hon'ble Court, after consideration of various judicial precedents on invocation of bank guarantees, opined that special equities are to be treated as exceptions to the general principle of contractually binding nature of a bank guarantee. Therefore, upon occurrence of such event, the court is empowered to issue an order of injunction. The ongoing countrywide lockdown arising out of outbreak of coronavirus pandemic falls within such 'special equities'. Therefore, the Respondent was refrained from invoking the bank guarantees of the petitioner till the expiry of a specified period.
This ad-interim order was subsequently vacated on May 29, holding that COVID-19 cannot be an excuse for breach of deadlines before the outbreak of pandemic.
COVID-19 A Force Majeure Event; But Not An Excuse For Breach Of Deadlines Before Pandemic Outbreak : Delhi HC
19. Banks cannot take coercive action for defaults in payment of Reverse Factoring Facility.
Name of the case: Eastman Auto & Power Ltd. v. Reserve Bank of India & Ors.
Case Number: W.P.(C) 2997/2020
Forum: Delhi High Court (Bench comprising of Justice Mr. Navin Chawla)
Date of Order: 27.04.2020
Challenge in brief: The writ petition was filed by the petitioner for restraining the Reserve Bank of India and other banks from taking any coercive action in lieu of non-payment for Reverse Factoring Facility availed by the petitioner. The Petitioner had contended that the due to the restrictions declared because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the petitioner has not been able to make payment for servicing of such facility for the period beyond 31.03.2020.
Order: The Court observed that the as per the notifications dated 27.03.2020 and 17.04.2020 issued by the Reserve Bank of India, certain relaxations were given in relation to the repayment of loans and advances extended by the banks. The objective of the said notifications was to provide financial relief to the parties who have availed the term loans and working capital facilities. Therefore, in view of the above, the Respondent banks were restrained from taking any coercive action against the Petitioner, including declassification of the petitioner, for the default committed by the Petitioner in the Reverse Factoring Facility availed by the Petitioner.
20. Responsible journalism includes the need to exclude irresponsible reporting
Name of the case: Dr.Fuad Halim v. State of West Bengal & Ors.
Case Number: W.P. No.5328 (W) of 2020
Forum: Calcutta High Court (Bench comprising of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee)
Challenge in brief: The Petitioner had approached the Hon'ble Court raising concerns over the alleged inadequacies in the State's health infrastructure and insufficient COVID-19 testing in West Bengal.
Order: The Hon'ble Court acknowledged the initiatives taken up the Central and State Governments for dealing with various problems that the world is facing by the outburst of the coronavirus. It observed that there is lack of certainty as whether the rapid testing method is being appropriately utilized. Further, such matters fall within the domain of governance and should not be subjected to judicial review unless imminently necessary. The Court further observed that the orders issued by the High Court are being uploaded in the official website. While opining that responsible journalism includes the need to exclude irresponsible reporting, the Court requested those in need of information about the contents of Court's orders, to access the High Court website and dissuade themselves from propagating or publicizing the orders to champion the cause of anybody concerned.
21.Digital Platform Sprinklr Inc. restricted from using information in breach of terms of confidentiality.
Name of the case: Balu Gopalakrishnan v. State of Kerala & Ors.
Case Number: W.P. (C). Temp. No. 84 OF 2020
Forum: Kerala High Court (Bench comprising of Justice Mr. Devan Ramchandran and Justice Mr. T.R. Ravi)
Challenge in brief: The Petitioner had raised confidentiality concerns arising out of contract entered between Government of Kerala with a Company by name Sprinklr Inc. to make available an online digital software/platform to process and analyse data with regard to patients and those vulnerable and susceptible to Covid – 19.
Order: Keeping in view the submissions of Government of Kerala that without the assistance of software provided by Sprinklr, they cannot continue to fight against Covid -19, the Court direct the Government of Kerala and its concerned Departments to anonymise all the data that have been collected from the citizens of the State. It was further directed that the Government to inform every citizen, from whom data is to be taken in future that such data is likely to be accessed by Sprinklr or other third party service providers and their specific consent to such effect shall be obtained in the necessary forms. The Court also issued injunction against Sprinklr from directly/indirectly committing any act in breach of confidentiality of the data entrusted to them for analysis/processing.
Harsha Asnani is an Associate and Roopadaksha Basu is a Senior Associate at The Law Point (TLP).
(The compilation is not exhaustive, and may be treated as a list showing some of the major decisions)