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Delhi HC directs Centre to decide representation for public consultation on Draft Health Data Management Policy

The Court said that the grounds of the inadequacy of public consultation would be kept open and decided as and when they are raised.

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today directed the Central government to decide a representation highlighting concerns regarding the unreasonably short deadline for public consultation and the inaccessible and exclusionary nature of the consultation process for the Draft Health Data Management Policy (Dr Satender Singh v. UOI).

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan in a petition preferred by Dr Satender Singh.

The petitioner challenged the "unconstitutional, undemocratic, discriminatory, and inaccessible nature" of public consultation for comments on the Draft Health Data Management Policy under the National Digital Health Mission.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Rajshekhar Rao submitted that as per the original notice for consultation, time till September 3 was provided for inviting comments, but this date was thereafter extended till September 10.

Stating that the Draft Policy was published on the official website only on August 26, Rao contended that given the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was very little time for an "effective and meaningful consultation".

It was also pointed that the process was exclusionary inasmuch as it was inaccessible to the visually impaired, those who are not conversant with English, and those without internet facility.

In response, the Court remarked that these issues would be "ripe for discussion" only after the policy is framed.

"Inadequacy of the consultation process can be looked into after the policy is framed", the Court said, as it noted that at present, the Draft Policy was at the pre-consultation stage.

Observing that these grievances could be taken care of by the government, the Court asked the petitioner to "reserve energy until policy is framed".

The Court thus disposed of the petition with a direction to the Centre to decide the representation made by the petitioner with respect to the Draft Policy, in accordance with the law.

"The grounds of inadequacy of public consultation are kept open. As and when the issue is raised, the same would be decided", the Court clarified.

The petition was filed through Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Sanjana Srikumar, and Devdutta Mukhopadhyay.

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