Mumbai, Jul 31: The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to pass any order directing for disclosure of names of persons who tested positive for COVID-19, noting there is a central government advisory prohibiting such disclosure.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang Kotwal disposed as withdrawn a public interest litigation(PIL) filed by two persons seeking disclosure of names ofcoronavirus patientsto enable contact tracing and to save others from getting infected.
The PIL claimed that the fundamental right to life and right to lead a healthy life stands above the fundamental right to privacy in the present situation (COVID-19 crisis) where public interest and morality is important. The petition was filed by a law student, Vaishnavi Gholave, and a farmer from Solapur, Mahesh Gadekar.
The petitioners advocate, Yashodeep Deshmukh, told the court that with the relaxations in lockdown, the number of people a person meets daily has increased and hence contact tracing would become a difficult task for the authorities in case he tests positive for the viral disease.
Deshmukh pointed out that several celebrities and politicians, on testing positive for COVID-19, have voluntarily shared the information with public and requested all those who came in their contact to get themselves tested.
Additional government pleader Nisha Mehra opposed the plea and argued that identity of a coronavirus patient needs to be protected. She informed the court that when a person tests positive, the ward officer concerned carries out contact tracing and takes all necessary steps.
The court on Friday noted that an advisory has been issued by the Union Government stating that names of COVID-19 patients should not be disclosed. Chief Justice Datta said the petitioners could challenge this advisory.
The court also asked Deshmukh if there is any study or report prepared by any organisation to show that if names of COVID-19 patients are disclosed, it would lead to general well-being.
The HC noted that the situation in Maharashtra was different considering the high number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the state (more than 4 lakhs so far).
Maharashtra is densely populated. Do the petitioners know what is the percentage of positive cases in comparison to the total population of the state…what is the mortality rate? Chief Justice Datta asked.
The court asked the petitioners to withdraw their PIL and file a better petition, and disposed of the matter.