The Bombay High Court on Friday sought response from Centre and the state government on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking special mechanism to declare the names of Covid-19 persons – both suspected and infected – to save others from coming in contact with them.
The PIL, filed by law student Vaishnavi Gholave and agriculturist from Solapur Mahesh Gadekar, argued that disclosure of names is necessary in larger public interest since the infected may not be able to give complete information of those who had come in contact with them. Non-disclosure of names has deprived citizens the right to health under Article 21 of the Constitution, the plea said.
“Still India has not reached the third stage of covid-19 community transmission according to the information provided by the state government. But anytime we can enter into this stage, if the government fails to declare the name of the corona patients,” the PIL stated.
A division bench of Justices A A Sayed and M S Karnik on Friday heard the PIL through videoconference. The Court enquired as to why the petitioner wanted to know names of persons and how far one can go in revealing the identity of Covid-19 positive persons since the issue of privacy was involved.
The Court, while hearing the plea, said that authorities declare a particular place or a building as a containment zone after someone tests positive for Covid-19 and people are made aware and would not enter those areas. Justice Sayed further queried with petitioners if this was not enough and as to why the petitioner wanted to know the names and details of persons testing positive for Covid-19.
Advocate Aditya Thakkar, appearing for the central government, said that as per Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, the names of Covid-19 positive persons cannot be declared to avoid their stigmatisation.
The petitioner said that while the residential areas and places of Covid-19 patients are disclosed by authorities, the names are kept as a secret. However, ICMR guidelines about secrecy are only for those who have died due to Covid-19 infection. “Disclosure about the communicable diseases can be made in the public interest. In case of notifiable disease, the doctor is bound to disclose all the required information to authorities,” the PIL said.
Referring to Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, petitioner stated, “In such cases, the right of confidentiality enjoyed by the patient must be given away in the interest of public good.”
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