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Use Of Arogya Setu Still Mandatory Despite Centre's Submission That It's Voluntary, Petitioner Tells Karnataka HC

Mustafa Plumber
10 July 2020 1:44 PM GMT
Use Of Arogya Setu Still Mandatory Despite Centre

The use and installation of 'Aarogya Setu', the contact tracing app developed by the National Informatics Centre, is still made mandatory despite the clarifications made by the Central Government, submitted Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves before the High Court of Karnataka.

The Court is hearing the petition filed by Anivar Aravind, cyber security activist, raising privacy concerns about the app.

"Despite statements made in the Court, all across the country it (Aarogya Setu app) is being made mandatory. Notifications are being issued for making it mandatory. Even in Karnataka, the use of application is made compulsory by Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited, some reports suggest", the senior counsel submitted.

Opposing the submission, Advocate Kumar M N, appearing for the Union of India, argued that there is no order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs making use of the application mandatory.

"Let the petitioner bring it to the notice of the court if there are any restrictions imposed by any authority", he said.

The Central Government had earlier submitted before the Court that the use of Aarogya Setu was not mandatory for travel by air or rail, and that the same was completely voluntary.

The Court adjourned the hearing asking the petitioner to place on record details of notification issued by Government making installation of the Aarogya Setu application, mandatory.

The division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna posted the matter for further hearing on July 17.

The Central Government Counsel also sought time to respond to the queries earlier raised by the bench.

The court had directed the state and the central government to file its statement of objections on the larger issues raised in the petition which are:

1. Whether the Central and State Governments can make use of the Aarogya Setu application mandatory as a condition for accessing all public offices.

2: Is the action of the Central government introducing the application supported by law.

Justice Oka had then said these issues will have to be gone into. He also said "In the Standard Operating Procedure issued by the High Court, the use of the Aarogya setu application is advised and not made mandatory."

The petitioner submitted that many countries across the world launched mobile apps for contact tracing of persons who test positive for COVID-19. Those 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.

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