Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday sought to know why should the names of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 be disclosed and said the issue involves privacy rights of such patients. The court made the observation while hearing a petition filed by two persons seeking disclosure of names of coronavirus patients to enable contact tracing and save others from getting infected.
The petition stated, when the fundamental right to life and right to lead a healthy life clash with the fundamental right to privacy, then the court needs to see which of these rights would advance public morality and interest.
A division bench of Justices AA Sayed and MS Karnik was hearing a PIL filed by a law student, Vaishnavi Gholave, and a farmer from Solapur, Mahesh Gadekar. The bench said, “How far can one go in revealing the identity of the person who has tested positive (for COVID-19)? Privacy rights are involved”.
Justice Sayed further said, “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?" the bench queried.
The Bombay High Court also sought the state government’s response to the petition. Advocate Aditya Thakkar, appearing for the Union government, submitted that as per the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the names of COVID-19 persons cannot be declared so as to avoid their stigmatisation.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Vinod Sangvikar, however, argued that the ICMR guidelines extended only to those who have died due to COVID-19. The bench posted the petition for further hearing after two weeks and directed the Maharashtra government to respond to the plea.