The Kerala High Court has questioned the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu, the contact tracing app. The National Informatics Centre developed the app to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Jackson Mathew, the Managing Partner of Leetha Industries, filed the petition. As per the Government order, employers have to ensure 100% coverage of the App in their organization.
The Contentions of the Petition
The counsel for the petitioner, Advocate Santhosh Mathew, submitted that the penal action proposed towards the employers; if they fail to ensure that all their employees download the app stands contrary to law.
“Firstly, not all of my employees have smartphones. To enforce this condition, I have to buy a smartphone for all employees. That is not practical. The government cannot penalize the employer for this. Secondly, employer is working with 50% staff. How can an employer ensure that employees who don’t come to work downloads the app? Can the HC Registrar or the Chief Justice be made criminally liable if all the High Court staff do not download the app?”, the counsel urged.
The counsel also referred to the views of Justice B N Srikrishna, (who drafted the bill on Personal Data Protection) against this forced imposition of using this app. Whereas, the Central Government Counsel argued that unless the maximum number of people download the app its effect would not be useful.
Decision By The Court
The single-judge bench of Justice P Gopinath raised questions regarding this: “There are valid concerns about the mandatory condition on the employers. Many have no smartphones. How do you propose to implement this?”. The judge also remarked that this mandatory imposition is “problematic.” The Central Government is directed to file a statement on the aspects raised by this imposition. Although prima facie agreeing with the issues raised; Justice Gopinath clarified that he will not make any interim decision before the Centre’s statement.
Therefore, the court adjourned the matter. The next date of hearing is May 18, 2020.