Perils of Publication of COVID-19 quarantine list – Violation of Right to Privacy or not?

By Manya Thapliyal

INTRODUCTION

The current precarious situation that all of us are going through or commonly referred to as lockdown due to the Covid-19 has raised a lot of questions with respect to a variety of issues. This particular article primarily focuses on ‘Whether the publication of a quarantine list violates the Right to privacy or not’. The outcome of publication of the quarantine list has raised a lot of questions. Due to paucity of knowledge with respect to ‘Right to Privacy’ this article aims to make layperson aware.

Right to Privacy has been enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Only when your privacy is respected, it is directly followed with ‘Right to Life’ and ‘Right to Personal’ Liberty. Even if any one of them is deprived to a human, all three of them shall be considered to be violated. Post 2017, it has been recognized as a ‘Fundamental Right’ after the landmark case K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.[1]

GROUNDS OF RIGHT TO PRIVACY IN 21ST CENTURY

In the 21st century where the world is overwhelmed with social media, it is safe to consider ‘Right to Privacy’ as an oxymoron the same way as ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Seriously Laughing’. In the case of a non-popular human being he/she might upload a picture, an article or share his/her thoughts with the world through social media platforms with consent. Thus, we assume the right to privacy has not been violated. But in the same situation replacing a non-popular human being with a popular personality the ‘Right to privacy’ is violated on a daily basis. From media companies to paparazzi’s everyone is behind them, outside their house, vacation spot which might extend to their marriage, waiting to cover every action they perform. Isn’t this violation of privacy? If yes, then why the questions are not being raised every day rather they are raised only when the boundary is crossed. It is mainly because the act is done in good faith and both the parties involved are benefitting out of it. This is something which makes the term ‘Privacy’ a wide scope to comprehend whose meaning shall change to the situation in which it is applied. There is no denial that it is a perplexing term and at the end of the day only mankind shall describe its authentic meaning and whether it is being violated or not.

From the above contemporary example, the three essential ingredients of Right to Privacy can be consent, motive, and most imperative the situation.

IS PUBLICATION OF COVID-19 QUARANTINE LIST VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO PRIVACY?

Coming back to the primary focus, does publication of Covid-19 quarantine list violate ‘Right to Privacy’ if so, what is the dangerous side effect?

Firstly, if we consider the consent of the patients in this situation it has clearly been violated because the option to post their name on the list or not has not been given to them. The sole decision of this lies in the hand of authority and affected humans are bound to accept it. The motive of Authority is to aware people of the situation, safeguarding, and igniting a sense of alertness towards the pandemic. Therefore, the action is in good faith for the colossal safety of the society. Also, it can be comprehended as; to act responsible now rather than creating unavoidable circumstances.  The last ingredient is the situation and the answer to the question of this article depends completely on this element. There is no denial that Right to Privacy might be violated but if we look at the entire situation, then the act of authority seems to be

done with the ultimate aim to save life. Hence, the right question to be raised shall be ‘How

necessary is it to post a Quarantine list and invade the right to privacy of the patient?

The list is said to entail the details of port of origin journey, port of final destination, date of arrival to home country (India), date until which the person is said to be quarantined at home and address of an Individual. The information published is definitely the personal data of an individual and is more than enough to locate the suspected person. Though the act is done in good faith and to save the life but at the same time it is directly putting the suspect under imminent threat to a great extent  which has the protentional to lead it into a murder, robbery, lynching (since there is a taboo around corona in some parts of our country) and so forth. Thus, it not only violates the right to privacy but also directly violates the right to life of the affected person. As a result, it causes humiliation, emotional and mental stigma to the entire family.

What can preferably be the solution to this problem? In the case of K.S. Puttaswamy held that the state is entitled to impose certain reasonable restrictions based on social, moral and compelling public interest in accordance with the law and any claim of infringement of this interest.

In the case of conflicting interest, it is important to realize the concept of co-existing as India is a democratic country. If the act causes greater harm to a group of individuals, then the state shall reconsider its decision and try to corporate a solution by which it can deliver the message, fulfill its duty and at the same time reduce the extent of harm being caused to an individual. After all, a human is dependent on another human for survival and a peaceful life.

 CONCLUSION

To conclude, at time of such conflicting interest between state and people, balance is very

important. State shall figure out a way through which it can post the list of quarantined

individuals by reducing the share of private information of the person and at the same time spread awareness to protect and alert the citizens about the potential of them being affected by the virus.

In the past our ancestors have successfully won the similar battle, India in1957 was going through influenza and, In 1908 it was affected with wide spread of tuberculosis but eventually came out of it with grit and persistence. Therefore, it is important to value each other’s life at such an unprecedented hour and preach empathy. It is rightly quoted by a great personality;

   Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant’?


[1] [1] K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1

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