45 organizations and more than 100 prominent individuals push back against the coercion of Aarogya Setu

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Tl;dr

Today, we sent a joint representation to the Prime Minister's Office that is endorsed by 45 organisations and more than 100 individuals against the mandatory use of the Aarogya Setu App dated May 1, 2020. This joint representation becomes all the more urgent given yesterday's direction by the Home Ministry for the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu and for it's "100% coverage" especially in all workplaces. Violation of this direction can lead to criminal penalties thereby Aarogya Setu now not only impacts the data privacy of workers, or can lead to risks of exclusion and misidentification, a person not having it on their phone can also be charged with a criminal offence. This marks a dramatic and clear shift in government policy on Aarogya Setu from, "encouragement" towards coercion and increases the legitimacy of the demands articulated by the joint representation.

A joint representation co-signed by 45 organisations and more than 100 people

In yesterday's post we released a joint representation signed by 37 organisations and 75 individuals against mandating the use of the Aarogya Setu on workers. After we opened it for further sign-ons this number has grown to 45 organisations and more than 100 individuals who have expressed solidarity against the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu on workers. The endorsements are from a broad swathe of Indian society including trade unions, people's movements, digital rights organizations, public health experts, former civil servants and bureaucrats, activists, academics, technologists, journalists, lawyers etc.

A copy of the joint representation was sent today with a covering letter to the Prime Minister's Office with a copy to Ministry of Home Affairs and other central government ministries.

To this we attached a covering letter dated May 2, 2020 which further notes with concern yesterday evening's development of the issuance of Order No 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) has been issued on May 1, 2020 around 6:00 PM by the Ministry of Home Affairs requiring mandatory installation of Aarogya Setu. This goes against the core demands of the joint representation which is attached to this covering letter.

Aarogya Setu : Not only mandatory but also criminal penalties

The Order No 40-3/2020-DM-I(A), which has been issued under Section 10(2)(I) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 mandates for the mandatory installation and operation of Aarogya Setu in two specific ways:

  1. First, after classification of the districts into three zones, for the Red (Hotspots) Zones, a further sub-classification has been made for, “containment zones”. As per the Order under Section 3(iii), “The local authority shall ensure 100% coverage of Aarogya Setu app among the residents of Containment Zones”.
  2. Second, at Para 15(i) further reference is made for, “all the district magistrates” to, “strictly enforce the lockdown measures” for, “public and workplaces, as specified in Annexure I”. This direction extends to all three zones. Annexure I further states at Point No. 15 that, “Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public. It shall be responsibility of the Head of the respective Organisations to ensure 100% coverage of this app among employees”.

Presently here are no exceptions or conditionality provided in these directions which place emphasis on 100% coverage in effect meaning total and complete mandatory installation of Aarogya Setu for all workers, all across the country. The order further indicates criminal penalties for non-compliance in Paragraph No. 16 that states, “Any person violating these lockdown measures and the National Directives for Covid-19 Management will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provision of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC and other legal provisions as applicable”. The specific provision that may be attracted for prosecution under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is Section 51(b) that provides for a maximum punishment of up to 1 year for disobedience, and 2 years when such actions may lead to a loss of life. The penalty for conviction under Section 188 of the IPC extends to 6 months imprisonment.

Hence, the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu is not only an issue of data privacy but second order harms which spring from it now includes loss of urban mobility, use of public spaces and transit, livelihood and personal liberty for millions of Indians all over India. Specially those without smartphones devices given the lack of any exemption categories.

Intention for further action

We at IFF in continuation of this Joint Representation dated May 1, 2020 and through this covering letter have requested specific review of Order No 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) and will also be shortly reaching out to each one of the co-signees and collaborators urging them to send individual letters of concern as much as examine further advocacy actions against this grave breach.

We also remain open to any suggestions and advice on what we can do better, or different not only through our collaborators, but even members of the public. We invite you to write to us, or discuss these issues over at the Internet Freedom Forum.

As stated before we at IFF will continue conducting public advocacy, awareness especially through digital media as well as continue to engage pro-actively with all government institutions on the issues concerning Aarogya Setu. This includes representations, RTI requests as well as other legal remedies which may be examined at an appropriate stage in consultation with IFF's legal team and several lawyers who continue to volunteer thier time and labour towards protecting fundamental rights.

Final list of signatories

The full list of 45 organisations and more than 100 individuals who have expressed solidarity against the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu through the Joint Representation dated 01.05.2020 sent to the Government is given below:

Organisation Name
Access Now
ADF India
All India Central Council of Trade Unions
All India Union of Forest Working People
Amnesty India
Asia Dalit Rights Forum
Association for Progressive Communications
Association for Protection of Democratic Rights
Bachchao Project
Chennai Metropolitan Construction and Unorganised Workers Union
Common Cause
Delhi Solidarity Group
Digital Empowerment Foundation
Feminism in India
Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay
Foundation for Media Professionals
Free Software Community of India
Human Rights Law Network
Indian Delivery Lions Organization
Indian Federation of App Transport Workers
Indian Journalists Union
Indian Social Action Forum
Indic Project
Internet Democracy Project
Internet Freedom Foundation
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Mumbai
Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas
LABIA - A Queer Feminist LBT Collective
Medianama
Metacept
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Adivasi Alliance
National Fishworkers' Forum
Pakistan-India Peoples' Forum for Peace & Democracy, India Chapter
Point of View
Pothe Ebar Namo Sathi
Project Constitutionalism
People’s Union of Civil Liberties
People’s Union for Democratic Rights
Red Dot Foundation
Socialist Party of India
Swathanthra Malayalam Computing
Tandem Research
United Christian Forum
Individual Name Profession/Affiliation
Abha Bhaiya One Billion Rising
Abhinav Anand Student
Akram Parvez Technical Art Director
Ammu Abraham PUCL Maharashtra
Anand Patwardhan Film Maker
Ankur Sarin Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad
Anuradha Kapoor Feminist Activist
Arun PS Policy Researcher
Ashish Ghosh Retired Teacher, University of Delhi
Asis Kumar Das Social Activist
Avani Chokshi Advocate
Basawa Prasad Kunale Advocate
Brijesh Kumar Former Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology
Brinda Adige Ananya Mahila Okkutta
Ch Narendra Senior Journalist
Chayanika Shah Queer Feminist Writer and Researcher
Chitra R Educator
Darshan R Software Engineer
Deepak Mukarji Founder Member, United Christian Front
Dr Shakeel Physician
Dr. Mira Shiva Public Health Physician
Dr.Mohan Rao Former Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health,
Dr.Tusharkanti Dey Community Health Adviser (Retired), All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health
Felix Padel Anthropologist and Author
Gautam Bhatia Advocate
Geeta Seshu Free Speech Collective
Gurbir Singh President, Mumbai Press Club
Gurshabad Grover Technology and Law Researcher
Harsh Kapoor South Asia Citizens Web
Indira Unninayar Advocate
Irfan Engineer Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Janaki Srinivasan IIIT-Bangalore
Japleen Pasricha Feminist Activist and Entrepreneur
John Dayal Former President, All India Catholic Union
Kalyani Menon Sen Feminist Learning Partnerships
Kannan Gopinathan Former IAS Officer and Activist
KP Sasi Film Maker
Kunal Majumdar Committee to Protect Journalists
Leo Saldanha Researcher
Madhu Bhaduri Retired IFS Officer
Madhu HS Chartered Accountant
Maitreyi Krishnan Advocate
Manoj Mitta Journalist and President, FMP
Mary Mathai Former Chemist and Homemaker
Meena Gupta Retired Civil Servant
Megha Garg Gandhi Fellow
Nachiket Udupa Activist
Nadika N Writer and Researcher
Nidhi Agarwal Activist
Nikhil Naren Advocate and Author
Oishik Sircar Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School
Padmini Ray Murray Design Beku Design Beku
Pamela Philipose Journalist Journalist
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Journalist and Filmmaker
Prabha Nagaraja TARSHI
Pradeep Esteves Context India
Prajval Shastri Astrophysicist
Prof. Sandeep Kumar Shukla Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kanpur
R Ramanujam Professor, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
Rahim Contractor Civil Engineer
Rajinder Chaudhary Former Professor, Department of Economics, M. D. University, Rohtak
Rashi Balachandran Human Centred Designer
Reetika Khera Associate Professor, IIM Ahmedabad
Revati Laul Journalist and Director, FMP
Rishab Bailey Technology and Law Researcher
Ritu Dewan Director and Professor, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai
Rupsa Mallik CREA
Salma Francis Vision for Oasis Waves Society (VOWS)
Sandeep Pillai Software Professional
Sandhya Gokhale Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai
Sanjay Kak Film Maker
Satyavir Singh Former Principal Commissioner, Customs and Central Excise Former Principal Commissioner, Customs and Central Excise
Saurabh Bhattacharjee Assistant Professor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences
Sebastian Poomattam Lawyer and Priest
Sharanya Nayak Activist
Shivaji Sarkar National Union of Journalists
Shreya Munoth Advocate
Soma Basu Journalist and Media Researcher
Sonakshi Yadav Student
Sreechand Tavva Independent Technology Consultant
Srikanth L Cashless Consumer
Srikanth. KS Independent Researcher
Srinivas Kodali Free Software Movement of India
Srinivasan G Software Professional
Subhashis Banerjee Professor, Dept of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi
Subodh Lal IPoS (Retd.) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, Government of India
Subodh S Gupta Public Health Professional
Subodh Sharma Professor, Dept of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi
Sudhanshu Pathania Ph.D Scholar, NALSAR
Sujata Patel Distinguished Professor, Savitribai Phule Pune University
Sukla Sen Peace Activist
Sulakshana Nandi Public Health Researcher Public Health Researcher
Sundar Burra Retired IAS Officer Retired IAS Officer
Sunep Imsong Technologist Technologist
Sunila Singh Women's Rights Activist
Swati Punia Lawyer Lawyer
Tara Murali Architect Architect
Tarunima Prabhakar Project and Research Lead, Tattle Civic Technologies
Teesta Setalvad Citizens for Justice and Peace Citizens for Justice and Peace
Ujjwal Singh Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi
Vandana Mahajan Independent Feminist
Vickram Crishna Independent Researcher
Vinay K Sreenivasa Advocate
Virginia Saldanha Activist
Xavier Dias Editor, Khaan Kaneej Aur Adhikaar
Zafar Iqbal Former Civil Servant, Consultant and Advocate

We remain committed working with more organisations and individuals to broaden the scope and improve the impact of interventions around Aarogya Setu. Please do feel free to reach out to us.

Important Documents

  1. Finalised Joint Representation dated 01.05.2020 sent to the Government with the list of signatories (link)
  2. Covering letter dated dated 02.05.2020 sent to the Government (link)
  3. Public call for endorsements on May Day against the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu (link)
  4. Comparative Analysis of Aarogya Setu (link)
  5. Working Paper on Privacy Concerns on Technological Responses to COVID-19 in India (link)

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