Why reveal name of COVID 19 patient: Bombay High Court

Asking the Maharashtra government to respond to a PIL, the court fixed the next hearing of the case after two weeks.

Should the name of a COVID-19 patient be revealed? While disclosing the names of COVID-19 patients may enable contact tracing and save others from getting infected, it may go against the fundamental right to privacy as social stigmatization can have devastating impact on a victim. In view of it, the Bombay High Court on Friday questioned the need to reveal the name of the COVID-19 patient as it involves privacy rights.

The Bombay High Court on Friday heard a PIL seeking disclosure of the names of COVID-19 patients and sought the Maharashtra government’s response to it. The high court division bench comprising Justices AA Sayed and MS Karnik heard the PIL filed by a law student, Vaishnavi Gholave and a farmer from Solapur, Mahesh Gadekar.

The PIL mentioned that disclosing the names of COVID-19 patients will enable contact tracing and save others from getting infected. It also stated that when the fundamental right to life and right to lead a healthy life clash with the fundamental right to privacy, then the court need to see which of these rights would advance public morality and interest.

During the hearing of the case, the Union government’s counsel Aditya Thakkar submitted that as per the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the names of COVID-19 positive persons cannot be declared so as to avoid their stigmatisation.

However, the petitioner counsel Vinod Sangvikar argued that the ICMR guidelines extended only to those who have died due to COVID-19.

"How far can one go in revealing the identity of the person who has tested positive (for COVID-19)? Privacy rights are involved. The authorities declare a particular place or building as a containment zone when someone tests positive so that people are made aware. Isn’t this enough? Why do you want to know who is the person who has tested positive?” the division bench questioned.

The court seeking to know why should the names of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 be disclosed, it said the issue involves privacy rights of such patients.

Asking the Maharashtra government to respond to the PIL, the court fixed the next hearing of the case after two weeks.

First Published: July 10, 2020, 7:43 p.m.