Opposition parties in Kerala and many legal experts have raised questions on the police collecting call detail records of coronavirus patients, calling it an infringement on the right to privacy, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. The Kerala government justified the decision and said the method was being used in other places and that it would help in surveillance and tracking of patients.
On Wednesday, the Kerala Police issued a circular allowing the additional director general of police of intelligence and headquarters to collect the call details records of Covid-19 patients from service providers. Route maps are made after the records are acquired.
Attacking the state government over the circular, the Congress said it will move the Supreme Court if needed. “The government has violated the Supreme Court directive that collection of CDRs will be permitted only in serious criminal cases,” Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said. “It is planning to convert Kerala into a surveillance state. It is a violation of rights.” Chennithala added that the call data could be misused.
“The decision to retrieve CDR [call detail records] is a gross infringement on the right to privacy,” BG Hareendranath, the former law secretary of Kerala, was quoted by The Times of India as saying. “The right to privacy of an individual has been explained in detail in the Puttaswamy case by the Supreme Court. The police can seek information in specific crime cases, but people cannot be put under surveillance in this manner. This is not a police state.”
Citing the same case, Supreme Court lawyer MR Abhilash also said that the government cannot seek call records unless there is a criminal case or a matter of national security.
In the KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court had in 2017 ruled to include the right to privacy in the list of fundamental rights. The petitioner, Puttawamy, had challenged the central government’s decision of making the Aadhaar Card mandatory for the public to avail themselves of public services.
Defending the move, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the method was scientific and the police would make sure the data is not misused, adding that it was done for the safety of the public. “We have experimented this in the worst-affected areas like Kasaragod earlier,” he said. “Strict instructions were given to the police not to misuse these details.”
Meanwhile, Kerala reported 39,708 coronavirus cases, according to the health ministry. The toll stood at 129.