On July 10, 2020 the Division Bench comprising of Justices AA Sayed and MS Karnik while hearing PIL filed in the Bombay High court which argued that disclosure of names of Covid-19 affected persons is necessary in larger public interest, issued a notice to the Central and the State Governments sought response in the relation to a PIL filed.
The petition was filled by a final year law student and an agriculturist engaged in some social work to disclose the names of corona infected patients to save the people from being infected. The petitioner state that by not disclosing the name of the patient, citizens are deprived of right to health guaranteed under article 21 of the constitution. In contrast to all the other rights, right to health creates an obligation upon the state that right to health is respected, protected and fulfilled. They highlighted that if the names of the coronavirus infected patients are disclosed then it will be beneficial for public at large to stay away from the said person and go to the Doctor at initial stage.
The petitioners supported this by giving an example of Meat Seller of Murarji Peth in Solapur who got infected with the virus and was reported that around 1000 people were in contact with him. It was highlighted on the behalf of petitioners that there are more than 25 meat sellers in that area and in such a situation how can people understand which meat seller is infected
It also stated that right to confidentiality can’t be accepted if the question is welfare of public at large. This exception has been recognized by Clause 7.14 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002”.
Justice Sayed questioned “how far can one go in revealing the identity of the person who has tested positive (for COVID-19)”. The Bench highlighted the fact the authorities declare a particular place or building as a containment zone when someone tests positive so that people are made aware.
The bench questioned as the issue of privacy is involved “ Isn't this enough? Why do you want to know who is the person who has tested positive?”and also asked the Maharashtra government's response to the petition.
Advocate Aditya Thakkar, appearing for respondent, the union government argued that he names of COVID-19 positive persons cannot be declared so as to avoid their stigmatisation as submitted in the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Petitioners argued that if authorities can declare a particular place or building as a containment zone when someone tests positive then why it can’t disclose the name of patients. And it was by further argued by the petitioners that guidelines issued by IMCR extends to only those who have died because of the said disease. The Court has directed the Centre and the State Governments to file a reply on the matter and the next date of hearing is fixed for July 24, 2020.