Noida Reverses Mandatory Aarogya Setu Order After Legal Challenge
The latest order by GautamBuddh Nagar District administration makes no mention of Aarogya Setu App at all.
Two weeks after residents of Noida, Greater Noida and civil society submitted a legal challenge against the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu app, the Gautam Buddh Nagar District administration has rolled back its orders for the contact tracing app.
The current orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), issued on Wednesday, 20 May, makes no mention of the app at all.
This comes in stark contrast to its previous order on 3 May which directed that the app is mandatory and non-installation of the Aarogya Setu app will be treated as a violation of the order and attract criminal penalties.
On 5 May, residents of Gautam Buddh Nagar district, which includes Noida, Greater Noida and Dadri, led by advocate Ritwik Shrivastav , submitted a representation to Additional Deputy Commissioner (Law & Order), Ashutosh Dwivedi, challenging the legal basis for making installation of Aarogya Setu mandatory.
Speaking with The Quint, Shrivastav described the latest order as “a considerable rollback.”
The legal challenge, facilitated by the Internet Freedom Foundation, had contested the issue of breach of personal liberty and executive overreach.
Voluntary to Mandatory & Back to Voluntary
This drastic scale down of the district’s order flows from the latest guidelines issued by the Union Home Ministry (MHA) on 17 May.
While its 1 May guidelines announcing lockdown 3.0 had ordered “100 percent coverage” of Aarogya Setu in all containment zones and had made it mandatory for all public and private sector workers, its subsequent guidelines on 17 May scaled down the requirement to install the app on a “best effort basis”.
The MHA guidelines issued on 17 May state, “With a view to ensuring safety in offices and workspaces, employees on best effort basis should ensure that Aarogya Setu is installed by employees having compatible mobile phones.”
The following day, on 18 May, Uttar Pradesh states’ guidelines watered down the order further. Instead of “best effort basis”, the state’s order mentioned “protsaahit” or “encouraged” to download the app.
And Gautam Buddh Nagar district’s orders on 20 May made no mention of the app at all.
‘A Victory For Civil Liberties’
Pointing towards the nature of the scale back that has flown from the latest MHA guidelines to the state of Uttar Pradesh and subsequently to the district, Apar Gupta, executive director at Internet Freedom Foundation told The Quint, “MHA’s ‘best effort basis’ still requires a person to take active steps up to their ability to have Aarogya Setu installed but the term ‘encouraged’ as used by the UP government does not require one to take any active steps.”
“This is a victory for civil liberties and shows that a policy shift can actually result in tangible results for people,” added Gupta, commenting on the effect of pushing back against the perceived executive overreach by the district administration.
The mandatory installation of the app “amounts to a case of executive overreach by the district administration and violation of privacy safeguards. What we have asked is simple, to modify its order and make the installation of the app voluntary,” advocate Ritwick Shrivastav had told The Quint on 13 May.
“If there is no 144 orders now, our writ petition is infructuous,” said advocate Ritwick Shrivastav. He, however, added that it is important to know how many, if any, persons were booked for not having Aarogya Setu installed. If an FIR has been filed against an individual, it would still stand despite the latest roll back.
On 13 May, after a group of Noida and Greater Noida residents submitted a letter before the district magistrate and police commissioner challenging the order of making Aarogya Setu App mandatory, the district police had told The Quint it was in the process of seeking legal advice on the issue.
IFF, in its post on the issue had stated, “to put it plainly, to criminally prosecute people for not installing a smartphone application even at the time of a pandemic is illegal. Due to this, we were compelled to take steps to challenge this order.
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