The Delhi Government on Tuesday (27th October) issued a Circular directing all wholesale liquor vends in national capital to ensure mandatory use of Aarogya Setu app by their staff.
The Circular directs All the licensees of wholesale liquor vends (L- I /1,-1 F), Excise Department, GNCT of Delhi to ensure the COVID-19 proper behavior and follow the below Action plan:
• Compulsory wearing of face mask by every worker
• Mandatory thermal screening of every worker entering the premises
• Touch free Sanitizer Dispenser at entry and exit points
• Mandatory use of Aarogya Setu app by every worker
• Frequent sanitization of entire building especially common touch points like staircase railings, door handles etc.
• Strict compliance of social distancing norms during loading and unloading of stock
• Display of Banner/regarding COVID 19 preventive measures at prominent place inside as well as outside the building.
Further, the circular has directed all the Bond Inspectors (L-1/L-lF) to ensure strict compliance of the above guidelines and submit a certificate regarding the same within 3 days to K.P. Singh ([ASSTT. COMMISSIONER (IMFL)]
CIC issues notice to CPIOs of MEIT, NIC and NED
Significantly, the Central Information Commission on Tuesday (27th October) issued show-cause notices to the Central Public Information Officers(CPIOs) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, National Informatics Centre and National E-Governance Division(NeGD) to show reasons as to why penalty u/s 20 of the Right To Information Act should not be imposed on them for prima facie obstruction of information and providing an evasive reply on an RTI application related to Arogya Setu App.
The CIC has also asked NIC to explain that when in the Aarogya Setu website it is mentioned that the platform was designed, developed and hosted by it, then how is it that they do not have any information about creation of the App.
Row around JNU Notification
In a notification issued on Wednesday (21st October), the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) had informed that the 'Aarogya Setu App' will be mandatory for all its students and employees once the university reopens.
However, later on the JNU administration withdrew the said notification.
Aarogya Setu: Mandatory or Optional?
The Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 01st, had made the use of Aarogya Setu App Mandatory by stating
"Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be mandatory for all the employees, both private and public. It shall be the responsibility of the Head of the Respective Organization to ensure 100% coverage of this app among the employees".
However, the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for the fourth phase of lockdown from May 18 to May 31, had diluted the mandatory condition for the use of 'Aarogya Setu'.
The directive in the guidelines issued on Sunday, May 17, had stated,
"With a view to ensuring safety in offices and workplaces, employers on best effort basis should ensure that Aarogya Setu is installed by employees having compatible mobile phones" (emphasis supplied)
Bail Conditions involving the installation of Aarogya Setu App
While on one hand, various High Courts, including the Madhya Pradesh High Court and Jharkhand High Court, have been asking the Bail applicants to download the Aarogya Setu App in their mobile phones as a bail condition, on the other hand, some High Courts have questioned the mandatory use of download the Aarogya Setu App.
On 17th May, in almost all the matters where the bail was granted, the Additional Sessions Judge at Patiala House Court had directed the prisoners to download the Aarogya Setu app and keep their GPS and Bluetooth open as a mandatory bail condition.
The Delhi High Court, in April 2020, had requested all the officers and officials of the court to download the Aarogya Setu application to check the status of the spread of COVID19 virus in their respective areas.
Till now, at least in more than 1500 bail applications, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has asked the Bail Applicants to install Aarogya Setu App in their mobile phones (source - https://indiankanoon.org/)
Questions on the Mandatory use of Aarogya Setu App
It may be noted that the High Court of Kerala, in May 2020 had orally raised doubts about the practicality of the mandatory condition imposed on employers to make their employees download 'Aarogya Setu', the contact tracing app developed by the National Informatics Centre amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There are valid concerns about the mandatory condition on the employers. Many have no smartphones. How do you propose to implement this?", asked a single bench of Justice P Gopinath.
Not just that, the High Court of Kerala had also sought a statement from the Central Government on the data privacy safeguards of the 'Aarogya Setu' amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Court had asked whether the Central Government can guarantee that the information collected by the Aarogya Setu app would not be misused.
Notably, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) had told the Karnataka High Court that use of Aarogya Setu Application by passengers is optional and not mandatory (in August 2020).
In September 2020, while hearing a PIL against Deputy Collector, Margao's order making usage of Aarogya Setu App mandatory for entering the Old Collectorate building at Margao, the High Court of Bombay at Goa had asked the State government to file an affidavit indicating that usage of the said app is no longer mandatory in light of a statement made by the Advocate General of Goa Devidas Pangam to that effect.
Recently, the Karnataka High Court has clarified that in absence of any legislation, neither the State government, nor the Central Government or its agencies and instrumentalities can deny any benefit or services to a citizen only on the ground that he has not installed Aarogya Setu application on his cell phone.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi issued the clarification while hearing a petition filed by Anivar A Aravind who has challenged the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu application for accessing public services.
It may be noted that in May 2020, Speaking at a webinar organized by Daksh, an advocacy group, Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice BN Srikrishna had said that mandating the use of Aarogya Setu app "causes more concern to citizens than benefit."