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High Court Judicature of Madras Intervenes under Section 482 of CrPC: Ruling on Abuse of Court Process and Non-Offensive Measures Regarding Vaccination Status and Personal Data Circulation under Section 43A of the IT Act

Shivani Negi ,
  19 February 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
High Court Judicature of Madras
Brief :

Citation :
2024: MHC: 6072

Case title:

Bharti Airtel Ltd. Chennai Vs Mr. Kamatci Shankar Arumugam

Date of Order:

2 February 2024

Bench:

Honorable Mr. Justice N Anand Venkatesh

Parties:

Bharti Airtel Ltd. Chennai - Petitioners

Mr. Kamatci Shankar Arumugam - Respondent

SUBJECT

  • The respondent filed a private complaint against the company and its officers, alleging they committed offenses under the IT Act and IPC. The complaint focuses on the respondent's refusal to vaccinate himself during the pandemic, claiming that his personal data was circulated, violating his privacy and unauthorized.
  • The apex court ruled that individuals cannot be forced to vaccinate themselves, but organizations must prioritize employee welfare. The company's decision to require vaccination is not considered coercion or compulsion, and its follow-up of unvaccinated employees is not considered circulating sensitive personal data.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

  • Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code
  • Section 43A and 72A of the Information Technology Act, 2000
  • Sections 52 and 199 of the Indian Penal Code

OVERVIEW

  • The petitioner company requested its employees to vaccinate themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing a tie up with hospitals offering free vaccinations. However, the respondent, who did not vaccinate, refused to do so. The company argued that mandatory vaccination was necessary to comply with the Covid Safety Protocol.
  • The petitioner company and its employees engaged in communication, identifying employees who did not vaccinate themselves in a list prepared under Cl.O.P. No.20928 of  2023.
  • The respondent became hypersensitive about his name being listed as unvaccinated, sending a detailed email stating his name should not be circulated. He later complained to the petitioner company's Chief Human Resource Officer, claiming it was compelled to wear a mask, test for Corona, and get vaccinated.
  • The petitioner was informed by the company's Human Resources Department that no one was forced to test for Covid-19 or vaccinate themselves. However, the Government of Tamil Nadu recommended two-dose vaccination. If not vaccinated, they could work online.
  • The respondent, who was dismissed due to an unauthorized absence, filed a private complaint against the petitioner company and its officers, which was taken into consideration by the court, citing offenses under Sections 43A and 72A of the IT Act.
  • Section 43A of the IT Act is not a strictly defined offense, as it is more of a tort with consequences leading to damages or compensation. The court finds no offense against the petitioner company and its officers, as the complaint is mala fides, as the company terminated the respondent's services for unauthorized absence, leading to a frivolous complaint.
  • The Corona virus caused global chaos in March 2020, causing widespread death and lack of medication. Despite the medical miracle of developing a vaccine, the virus's impact was not understood, leading to confusion and limited human interaction. The petitioner company requested its employees to be vaccinated.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

  • The apex court recognized that individuals cannot be forced to vaccinate themselves, as it would infringement their bodily integrity and personal autonomy. However, organizations must consider the welfare of their employees, and a person who doesn't vaccinate and follows the Covid-19 Safety Protocol cannot access others in public spheres. The petitioner company's decision to require the respondent to vaccinate and follow the protocol is not considered coercion or compulsion.
  • The petitioner company's follow-up of employees who have not been vaccinated is not considered circulating sensitive personal data. This effort, along with taking preventive measures to protect themselves from the Corona virus attack, does not constitute an offense under Section 43A of the IT Act.

CONCLUSION

  • The court ruled that the respondent's private complaint against the petitioner company and its officers is an abuse of court process, requiring intervention under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
 
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