Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Friday (July 10) sought to know why the names of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be disclosed. It added that the issue involves privacy rights of such patients.

A division bench of Justices AA Sayed and MS Karnik made the observation while hearing a petition filed by two persons seeking disclosure of names of coronavirus patients to enable contact tracing and save others from getting infected. The PIL has been filed by a law student, Vaishnavi Gholave, and a farmer from Solapur, Mahesh Gadekar.

The PIL said when the fundamental right to life and right to lead a healthy life clash with the fundamental right to privacy, then the court needs to see which of these rights would advance public morality and interest.

"How far can one go in revealing the identity of the person who has tested positive (for COVID-19)? Privacy rights are involved. The authorities declare a particular place or building as a containment zone when someone tests positive so that people are made aware," Justice Sayed said.

"Isn't this enough? Why do you want to know who the person who has tested positive is?" the bench queried. The HC also sought the Maharashtra government's response to the petition.

Advocate Aditya Thakkar, appearing for the Union government, submitted that as per the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the names of COVID-19 positive persons cannot be declared so as to avoid their stigmatisation.

The petitioners' lawyer, Vinod Sangvikar, however, argued that the ICMR guidelines extended only to those who have died due to COVID-19. The bench posted the petition for further hearing after two weeks and directed the Maharashtra government to respond to the plea.