Over 130 individuals and organizations oppose mandatory use of Aarogya Setu in Delhi district courts #SaveOurPrivacy

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Tl;dr

Today, 135 individuals including a large number of lawyers and 7 organizations sent a representation to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and various District & Sessions Judges against Aarogya Setu being mandatory for accessing Delhi District Courts. The representation highlights that such a requirement is likely to create barriers to justice, compromise the privacy of lawyers and their clients, and it has no basis in law.

Background

After a prolonged period of disrupted functioning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physical filings have recently resumed in courts in Delhi. Different district courts have issued guidelines for this purpose which seek to prevent the spread of the virus within the court premises through measures such as wearing of masks and avoiding crowding. However, the Protocol issued for the South and South East District also mandates use of the Aarogya Setu mobile app by any lawyers, clerks or litigants who wish to enter the court premises.

The Aarogya Setu app has been the subject of significant controversy, and concerns have been raised about the privacy and security of sensitive personal data collected by the app about a user's health and location. These objections also prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs to backtrack on its decision to make Aarogya Setu mandatory (read more here) and its most recent Unlock 3.0. Guidelines clarify that use of Aarogya Setu is only required on a best efforts basis.

Today i.e. 30 July 2020, 135 individuals including a large number of lawyers and 7 organizations sent a representation to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and various District & Sessions Judges against Aarogya Setu being mandatory for accessing courts in Delhi. The representation highlights that such a requirement is likely to create barriers to justice, compromise the privacy of lawyers and their clients, and it has no basis in law. We are extremely grateful to Mansi Sood who brought this important issue to our notice, drafted the representation and steered this entire effort.

Concerns about Exclusion & Privacy

Even in urban centres like Delhi, only 30-50% of the residents own Bluetooth compatible smartphones. As a result, making the Aarogya Setu mobile app a pre-condition for entry into court complexes will exclude a significant number of advocates, clerks and litigants (especially those who visit legal aid centers). Many lawyers are struggling to make ends meet due to disrupted functioning of courts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and forcing them to purchase a smartphone will only increase their suffering.

Mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu in judicial establishments could also undermine attorney-client confidentiality. Aarogya Setu collects sensitive personal data including the location of persons and the potential for misuse of such data compromises this basic principle that forms the bedrock of the legal profession. Further, as per the Terms of Use of the app, such data is shared with unspecified government entities and third parties. In the absence of an adequate data protection framework in place, mandating the use of this application within court complexes greatly undermines the privacy and data security of all persons within these premises.

In light of these concerns, the representation recommends that the following measures to be undertaken:

  • Convene a meeting of all District Judges for a standardised SOP which recognises the challenges and concerns in the use of Aarogya Setu for court complexes.
  • Recognise the concerns associated with Aarogya Setu and issue an advisory clarifying that use of the app should not be made mandatory for any physical filing or securing entry into any judicial or court complexes in Delhi, including all District Courts as well as the Delhi High Court.
  • Ensure strict implementation of methods of risk mitigation outlined by the Ministry of Home Affairs, including but not limited to social distancing, face covering and regular sanitisation, within judicial/court complexes.

List of Endorsees

Organizations

Organizations
1. Balwani Law Chambers
2. Chambers of Joshi & Singh
3. Internet Freedom Foundation
4. Kaushal & Partners
5. Medianama
6. Volunteers Collective
7. Women in Criminal Law Association

Individuals
1. Aamod Lawyer
2. Abhinav Bakolia Advocate
3. Abhishek Engineer
4. Adarsh Ramakrishnan Lawyer
5. Aditya Kumar Lawyer
6. Adv. Ansar Indori Lawyer
7. Agam Sharma Advocate
8. Agnish Aditya Advocate
9. Ajay Singh Lawyer
10. Akshita Raina Volunteer
11. Aldrin Entrepreneur
12. Amala Dasarathi Advocate
13. Ambar Bhushan Advocate
14. Amiya Student
15. Anandh Venkataramani Advocate
16. Anandita Sharma Lawyer
17. Anas Tanwir Advocate
18. Anjali Rawat Researcher in Law, Oxford University
19. Ankit Parashar Advocate
20. Ankita Advocate
21. Anmol Bharti Advocate
22. Anshul Bajaj Advocate
23. Apar Gupta Advocate
24. Arijit Sarkar Self employed
25. Arijita Sen Psychologist
26. Arjit Bhartiya Legal Consultant
27. Asim Student
28. Athul R T
29. Avi Singh Lawyer
30. Avi Srivastava Advocate
31. Bismanjit Singh Sabharwal Lawyer
32. Chandan Goswami Lawyer
33. Chitranshul Sinha Advocate
34. Deepanshu Arora Advocate
35. Deepriya Snehi Advocate
36. Devdutta Mukhopadhyay Advocate
37. Devvrat Joshi Lawyer
38. Dhiliphan Madhav M C Student
39. Divya Srinivasan Lawyer
40. Dr. V. Visvanathan Computer Technologist (Retired)
41. Ganesh Researcher
42. Harsh Raj Law Student
43. Harsh Sharma Law Student
44. Harshita Vaid Student
45. Hemanth Pothula Advocate
46. Ilin Saraswat Advocate
47. Indrapramit Das Writer
48. Ish Maini Lawyer
49. Jahnavi Sindhu Advocate
50. Jennis Stephen Lawyer
51. Karishma Maria Advocate
52. Kaushal Kishore Lawyer
53. Kaustav Saha Advocate, Delhi High Court
54. Kaustubh Mehta Law Student
55. Keerthana
56. Khushboo Pareek Advocate
57. Kushan Chakraborty Advocate
58. Lakshmi Kruttika Vijay Advocate
59. Layal Ayoub Writer
60. Mangla Verma Advocate
61. Mansi Sood Advocate
62. Mary Mitzy Advocate
63. Mayank Aggarwal Advocate
64. Meera Chature Sankhari Advocate
65. Megha Gandhi Fellow
66. Mihir Samson Advocate
67. Mishika Advocate
68. Mukarram Ali Engineer
69. Mukesh Garg Advocate
70. N. Sai Vinod Advocate-on-Record
71. Naman Joshi Advocate
72. Namita Sood Environmentalist
73. Namrata Lawyer
74. Neelakantan Editor
75. Neelambika Singh Lawyer
76. Nikhil Pahwa Founder and Editor, Medianama
77. Nikitha Surabhi Advocate
78. Ninad Jane Professor
79. Niranjan Bharathi R B Engineer
80. Nitika Khaitan Advocate
81. Pamela Philpose Journalist
82. Pankaj Jangir Lawyer
83. Pooja Saigal Lawyer
84. Pranav Arora Advocate, Supreme Court of India
85. Pratik Tiwari Lawyer
86. Pratyush Priyadarshi Data Scientist
87. Priyashree Sharma Ph Advocate
88. Purbitaa Mitra Advocate
89. Pyoli Lawyer
90. R L Sinha Lawyer
91. Rabindranath Mishra IT Job
92. Radhika Roy Advocate
93. Rahul Rajamuthiah Entrepreneur
94. Rajagopalan V Professional
95. Raman Jit Singh Chima Lawyer and Policy Analyst
96. Ramaseshan Software Engineer and Technology Activist
97. Raunak Law Student
98. Rina Kamath Legal Practitioner
99. Rishab Lawyer
100. Rudrajit Ghosh Advocate
101. S. Rama Advocate
102. S. Sreesh Advocate
103. Sachendra Sinha Retired Professor
104. Sachin Student
105. Sakkir Ahmed Hussain Advocate
106. Sanjana Srikumar Advocate
107. Sanjoli Mehrotra Lawyer
108. Sarvjeet Singh Lawyer
109. Saurabh Balwani Lawyer
110. Saurav Sharma Advocate
111. Setu Bandh Upadhyay Advocate
112. Shailesh Poddar Advocate
113. Shambhu Student
114. Shamik Gupta Student
115. Shantanu Singh Advocate
116. Sharmistha Ghosh Advocate
117. Shiv Yadav Architect
118. Shivam Rai Technology Research and Consultation
119. Shraddha Chaudhary Lecturer
120. Shreedhar Kale Advocate, Delhi High Court
121. Shreya Munoth Lawyer
122. Shreyansh Rathi Advocate
123. Siddhant Shrivastava Advocate
124. Sonal Sarda Lawyer, New Delhi
125. Sonia Thomas Media
126. Srishti Joshi Advocate
127. Sunit Kumar Mondal Advocate
128. Swati Jain Lawyer
129. Tanvi Advocate
130. Tulika Chikker Lawyer
131. Vaishnavi Viswanathan Lawyer
132. Venkateshan K Data Scientist
133. Vinayak Mehrotra Advocate
134. Vishal Singh Advocate
135. Vrinda Bhandari Lawyer

Important Documents

  1. Representation dated 30.07.2020 about mandatory use of Aarogya Setu in Delhi District Courts (link)