9 Sep 2020 10:05 AM GMT
Delhi High Court disposed of a petition challenging the consultation process for the National Digital Health Mission: Health Data Management Policy indicating that it shall not decide the adequacy of the consultation process at this stage but the same can be looked into if the final policy is challenged on substantive grounds later. However, the Bench comprising of Chief...
Delhi High Court disposed of a petition challenging the consultation process for the National Digital Health Mission: Health Data Management Policy indicating that it shall not decide the adequacy of the consultation process at this stage but the same can be looked into if the final policy is challenged on substantive grounds later.
However, the Bench comprising of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan directed the Government to decide the representation of the petitioner in accordance with law, rules, regulations and Government policies applicable to the facts of the case. It directed the Government to keep in mind the various grounds raised in the petition before the Court while deciding the issues.
The petitioner Dr. Satendra Singh had challenged the inadequacy of the consultation process of the National Digital Health Mission: Health Data Management Policy on several grounds while also seeking an extension of the notice period of the consultation which is to end on 10th September 2020. The petition asked the Court to
"Issue a Declaration that undertaking any online public consultation process for draft policies or legislation during a public health emergency/crisis, such as COVID-19, without providing alternative arrangements for those excluded on account of language or disability or internet access is illegal and unconstitutional."
Furthermore, following reliefs were sought by the petitioner from the Court with regard to the consultation process:
1. Short 15 day timeline amidst COVID-19- The petitioner asked the Court to declare the short 15 day timeline for consultation process of the policy as illegal and arbitrary submitting that it negates the very purpose for which consultation is conducted. It also asked the Court to extend the notice period of the consultation of the Policy till the restrictions /lockdowns in place under the Disaster Management Act for COVID-19 pandemic subsist or for a minimum period of 60 days.
2. Inaccessibility to people with visual impairments- It also asked the Court to direct the Government to conduct the consultations for the Policy in a format that is accessible for persons with visual impairment and in compliance with the accessibility requirements under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It specifically asked that the CAPTCHA requirement be removed and an alternative be provided to submitting of comments by email.
3. Online-only mode of engagement- The petition also sought that an appropriate writ or order be issued to the Government to provide widespread publicity to National Digital Health Mission: Health Data Management Policy including through means other than the internet.
4. English-only mode of engagement- It also asked the Court to order the Government to make translated copies of the draft Policy available across the country in the official vernacular languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, and to upload the same on all its websites including the website of Union of India and of the National Digital Health Mission.\
The Court stated that
This Court is not deciding the aforesaid grounds at this stage, but the same are kept open. As and when the issue will arise, the same will be decided in accordance with law by this Court.
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