On 3rd May 2020, I woke up to a Section 144 order passed by the ADCP, Gautam Buddha Nagar mandating the use of Aarogya Setu App. Additionally, its non-compliance was made criminally punishable with imprisonment and/or fine. Reading further on the topic, I came across a statement of the Commissioner of Police, Noida that said – “ If a person does not have a smartphone, they will be asked to get one or fetch it from their homes. Who does not have a smartphone these days?” The utter disregard of the prevalent social condition in this statement shook my conscience and I decided to get this order modified.
Like most of you, I am also not a social activist. I am a lawyer who works with the Government to formulate legislation and policies. I usually do not engage with the authorities in order to fight for my democratic rights. However, my decision to get the Order amended was firm and therefore I sought support from IFF to prepare my representation. After identifying the legal infirmities in the Order, on 6th May I sent my representation to the Commissioner of Noida and ADCP urging them to make necessary modifications in the Order. The Order, apart from being a textbook case of executive overreach, was against Article 21 & the Right to Privacy judgment.
I waited and waited but was not informed about any action being taken on my representation. On 8th May, I sent the same representation to the District Magistrate of GBN hoping for a proactive action from him. In desperation of a response, I started calling up their offices asking about the status of my representation. Finally, on 12th May, I received a Whatsapp message from ADCP informing me that my representation was being sent for seeking legal opinion. By this time, numerous FIRs had been registered and arrests made. More and more cases of criminal proceeding were being reported from Noida. Considering the paucity of time, on 14th May, I sent a final follow up informing the ADCP about my decision to approach court in case of further delay.
Surprisingly, just 3 days after my follow-up, the Government of Uttar Pradesh changed the status of Aarogya Setu from mandatory to ‘advisable’. The Gautam Buddha Nagar authorities made a 360 degree turn by not even mentioning Aarogya Setu in the Lockdown 4.0 guidelines. Because of our consistent efforts, the authorities had changed their stand on the mandatory nature of Aarogya Setu. Our small actions did matter.
I owe the success of my representation to the constant support and guidance provided by IIF and their belief that benefit of digital rights can be realised only by active advocacy by every Indian.