The Bombay High Court rejects plea seeking identity disclosures of COVID-19 patients

The petition filed by a law student and a farmer urged the disclosure of patient names to ensure smooth contact-tracing.

The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a plea seeking identity disclosure of coronavirus affected patients citing the right to privacy of each individual.  The number of COVID-19 cases in India has peaked up to 798,141. India stands third on the global ranking of the most affected coronavirus patients after the United States and Brazil. The total number of death accounted for due to the virus is 21,654 individuals.

While hearing the petition, Justice AA Sayed and MS Karnik in their statement observed, “How far can one go in revealing the identity of the person who has tested positive (for COVID-19)? Privacy rights are involved.”

The petition was filed by a law student Vaishnavi Gholave and Mahesh Gadekar, a farmer from Solapur who stated smooth contact tracing and protection of other individuals from the virus contact as their reason.

However, their request was denied by the 2 bench judges stating that this will clash with the fundamental right to privacy of a citizen. The bench further added that it needs to see which of these rights would trump public morality and interest.

“The authorities declare a particular place or building as a containment zone when someone tests positive so that people are made aware. Isn’t this enough? Why do you want to know who is the person who has tested positive,” asked Justice Sayed.

Advocate Aditya Thakkar who appeared for the Union Government argued that releasing the identity of COVID-19 positive person may lead to stigmatization and prejudicial behavior from society. He also submitted the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research that prohibits an official from revealing patient names.

Meanwhile, The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra Government to file a response to the petition within 2 weeks.

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