Aarogya Setu mandatory for private and public sector employees; non-compliance could lead to criminal action says IIF

Aarogya Setu mandatory for private and public sector employees; non-compliance could lead to criminal action says IIF
4 May, 2020

In a new set of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health Affairs (MHA) on Friday, the government has made the Aarogya Setu app mandatory for all employees in public and private establishments.

Heads of organisations at such establishments will be responsible for ensuring 100% coverage of the app among employees returning to work from May 4, according to the guidelines.

Non-compliance can be penalised under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, the guidelines said. The guidelines do not make any exceptions for non-compliance. 

Digital rights body Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) along with some 45 organisations and over 100 individuals have opposed the criminal prosecution that could follow the non-installation of the app. 

According to IFF,  Section 51 (b) under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for a maximum punishment of up to one year for disobedience, and two years when such actions may lead to a loss of life.  Section 188 of the IPC for disobedience of order duly promulgated by a public servant can invite imprisonment for upto six months and a fine of Rs 1000.

“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. Especially those without smartphone devices given the lack of any exemption categories,” IFF said in a post.

The app released by National Informatics Centre on April 2 has seen over 90 million downloads so far, Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, said during the daily briefing of the Covid-19 related situation and measures by the government of India. The telemedicine feature, Aarogya Setu Mitr, will not be able to access user data from the app, according to initial reports. 

The functionality of Aarogya Setu will also be made available for feature phones, said minister of electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad in a social media post recently. 

Critics have questioned the privacy policy of the app which uses bluetooth technology and GPS (global positioning system) generated information to alert users about proximity to Covid-19 infected individuals. 

Consumer internet companies including Zomato and Urban Company, which depend on service partners, have made it mandatory for the gig workers to download the Aarogya Setu app.

“We have made sure that they can only log in to their Zomato Delivery Partner app if their phone has the Aarogya Setu app installed, and is running as a background process on their phone,” Zomato had said in a statement.