The Central Government on Friday clarified to the Karnataka High Court that it is not mandatory for a person wishing to travel by Air or Rail to install the Aarogya Setu application on mobile phone and that its use was voluntary.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice E S Indiresh was informed by Additional Solicitor General (AGS) M B Nargund that :
"A person can travel by Air without having downloaded the Aarogya Setu app and the same thing applies for travel by railways. A self declaration though will have to be given by the passenger. It is advisable to download the Aarogya setu application. If they (passengers) want to have it have it ;if they don't want to have don't have it."
The statement was made during the hearing of a petition filed by cyber security activist, Anivar A Aravind.
The court in its order recorded that :
"As stated by the Additional Solicitor General, even if a passenger wishes to travel by Air and has not downloaded Aaarogya Setu application, he can travel by filing a self declaration as provided. Therefore it is not mandatory for a citizen to provide evidence of downloading the Aarogya Setu application as a condition for air travel. The guidelines making it mandatory for passengers has been amended by providing that it is advisable to download the application before commencing rail journey. This makes it clear that a person who wishes to travel by will be permitted to travel though he has not downloaded the application."
The bench while posting the matter for further hearing to July 10 has directed the state and the central government to file its statement of objections on the larger issues raised in the petition they are:
Chief Justice Oka said these issues will have to be gone into.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the National Directives for Covid Management, which makes the use of the app as mandatory for all employees both public and private, is in violation of Fundamental Rights, guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner submitted that many countries across the world launched mobile apps for contact tracing of persons who test positive for COVID-19. The applications are voluntary and most of these applications across the world use only Bluetooth and do not not access the location of the user. However, the application launched on April 2, by the National Informatics Centre for contact tracing and which has been downloaded more than 100 million times by users, has been using location service and bluetooth to track users.
The petitioner also argued that the Data Access Protocol for Aarogya Setu notified by the Chairperson of the Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management on May 11 has no force of law and that this protocol cannot be an excuse to mandate the use of Aarogya setu app without any enabling law.
The app has been collecting excessive data and this goes against the principles of data minimization and purpose limitation as enshrined in 'Puttaswamy Judgement', contended the petitioner.