Use or downloading of Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking App not mandatory for Flight/ Train Travel: Centre tells Karnataka High Court
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Use or downloading of Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking App not mandatory for Flight/ Train Travel: Centre tells Karnataka High Court

The Centre told the Court that even if a passenger who wishes to travel by flight/ train has not downloaded the Aarogya Setu App, he can undertake the travel by filing a self-declaration form provided in a May 21 GO.

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court today held that even if a passenger has not downloaded the Aaraogya Setu app, he could undertake Air /Railway travel by filling a self-declaration form.

A Bench comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice ES Indiresh had passed the order in view of the clarifications made by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Nargund for the Central Government.

ASG Nargund informed the Bench that downloading of the Aarogya setu app by passengers is not mandatory anymore and that, the same is only advisable.

Nargund stated that even if a passenger who wishes to travel by flight has not downloaded the Aarogya Setu App, he can undertake air travel by filing a self-declaration form provided in a Central government order dated May 21. These order contains general instructions for commencement of air travel.

"If a passenger submits it (self-declaration), then that is sufficient for us", ASG Nargund submitted.

The self-declaration form would contain an undertaking that the passenger has not visited any containment zones and that he is free from any/ all COVID-19 symptoms, among other details, he added.

To this, the Bench queried,

"One of the guidelines is that all passengers must download the Aarogya Setu app. So can we record your statement saying this is not mandatory? Even if a passenger does not downlaod or use the Aarogya Setu Application, he will be permitted to travel... "

"The earlier guideline has been amended. My statement may kindly be recorded", Nargund responded.

In view of this submission, the Court remarked, "Therefore, it is not mandatory for a citizen to produce evidence of downloading Aarogya Setu App as a condition precedent for undertaking Air Travel."

Allied submissions were also made by Nargund with respect to train travel.

The Bench, therefore, observed,

"This makes it very clear that those who wish to travel by the same will be permitted to travel though he has not downloaded Aarogya Setu Application. Therefore, the memo filed by the 1st respondent makes the issue clear as far as air and railway travel is concerned."

Karnataka High Court

The Court was dealing with a plea seeking to make the use of the Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app voluntary, and not mandatory. Last week, the Karnataka High Court had issued notice to the Central government in the matter.

The broader issue before the Court concerns whether the Central/State Government can make use of Aarogya Setu App mandatory as a condition precedent for accessing any Government service or facility.

On this larger issue, the Court has directed the Central and the State government to file their response within three weeks.

The petitioners before the Court had contended that the act of Central Government to introduce the Aarogya Setu App must supported by a provision of law.

During the hearing, the petitioner counsel invited the attention of the Court to a Standard Operating Procedure dated June 4 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which made the app mandatory.

The Court told the petitioners the said SOP on record along with any other circulars mandating the use of the app.

The Bench also granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Court for any interim relief by applying for an amendment of the plea, if such a situation arises.

The matter will be next taken up for hearing on July 10.

The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Prof Ravivarma Kumar, assisted by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and Advocates Siddharth Baburao and Choudhary Ali Zia Kabir.

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