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The Bench was dealing with a plea seeking to make the use of the Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app voluntary, and not mandatory.
The Karnataka High Court today orally reiterated that no instrumentality of the Central or state governments can make the downloading and use of the Aarogya Setu app compulsory.
This observation was made by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna. The Bench was dealing with a plea seeking to make the use of the Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app voluntary, and not mandatory.
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves informed the Court that the Centre's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had made the use of the tracking app mandatory.
Gonsalves pointed out that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) dated June 4, issued by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to generate awareness on how to curb the spread of COVID-19, made it mandatory for employees in offices as well as visitors to download the Aarogya Setu app.
Noting this submission, the Court directed the Centre to clarify its stand on the above issues.
The Bench further ordered the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to clarify whether it had mandated the compulsory use of the Aarogya Setu application as a condition precedent for boarding the metro rail, as and when it starts functioning.
This, after Gonsalves pointed out that BMRCL had made the use of the app mandatory. Posters making such an announcement have also been displayed, he further argued.
In response, Additional Solicitor General MB Nargund countered that the application filed before the Court in this regard is premature, as the metro has not been working for the past few months, and is not expected to function for the next three months.
At this point, the Court said,
"Metro rail should come before the Court and say that they will not raise this. No instrumentality of the state can say that use of the Aarogya setu app is compulsory."
The Court was prompted to pass these directions based on two intervention applications moved by the petitioners.
In order to file objections, ASG Nargund had sought three weeks' time. On the other hand, Gonsalves pushed for an earlier hearing, claiming that Aarogya Setu is being made compulsory, and that the data collected by the app is being shared with third parties, even after the apps were deleted from phones.
After hearing the submissions of both the parties, the Bench, in effect, allowed the impleading applications.
The matter will be next heard on August 3.
Last month, the Karnataka High Court had held that even if a passenger has not downloaded the Aarogya Setu app, he could undertake air/railway travel by filling a self-declaration form.