‘Surveillance state’: Congress on Kerala tapping phones of Covid patients

Updated on Aug 13, 2020 09:26 PM IST

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in pandemic situations such drastic steps will be needed but police will ensure that these records are not misused. He also said it was part of a scientific method to contain the spread of virus.

The government, on its part, said it is for better tracking and surveillance of patients and that it was experimented in many places earlier also. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times)
The government, on its part, said it is for better tracking and surveillance of patients and that it was experimented in many places earlier also. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times)
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | ByHT Correspondent | Edited by AshutoshTripathi

With police collecting call detail records (CDR) of Covid-19 patients in Kerala, the opposition and legal experts questioned the legality of the move, saying it was an infringement on the right to privacy.

The government, on its part, said it is for better tracking and surveillance of patients and that it was experimented in many places earlier also.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in pandemic situations such drastic steps will be needed but police will ensure that these records are not misused. He also said it was part of a scientific method to contain the spread of virus.

But the opposition said in the name of records the government was trampling rights. “The government has violated the Supreme Court directive that collection of CDRs will be permitted only in serious criminal cases. It is planning to convert Kerala into a surveillance state. It is a violation of rights,” said Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. He said chances are the CDRs will be misused and patients will have to bear more stigma and taboo. The Congress said it will move the court if the order was not withdrawn.

Kerala police chief Loknath Behera on Wednesday issued a circular which said the ADGP Intelligence and ADGP headquarters will get in touch with all service providers to get CDRs of Covid patients. After this, their route maps will be prepared. There are also reports that some service providers declined to share details.

“The right to privacy of an individual has been defined in detail in KS Puttaswamy v Union of India. The decision to retrieve CDRs is against the right to privacy. The government can’t breach individual rights like this,” said Supreme Court lawyer MR Abhilash, adding that unless it was for a criminal investigation or a matter of serious national security issue CDRs can’t be retrieved.

But the CM justified it saying it was done for the sake of public health and safety. “We have experimented this in the worst –affected areas like Kasaragod earlier. Strict instructions were given to the police not to misuse these details,” he said.

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