Justice Devan Ramachandran of Kerala High Court observed that although a circular has been issued on related aspects, it was not enough and that concrete steps should be implemented to ensure the privacy of HIV-positive persons
The Kerala High Court has sought the state government’s response on the steps taken to ensure that confidentiality of HIV positive patients is not breached while applying for benefits under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) through Akshaya centres.
Justice Devan Ramachandran observed that although a circular has been issued on related aspects, it was not enough and that concrete steps should be implemented to ensure the privacy of HIV-positive persons.
“The learned government pleader is, therefore, directed to obtain specific instructions from the Government as to the steps/ initiatives required to implement in such manner that the petitioner (an HIV positive person) and similarly placed persons would not be prejudiced on account of breach of confidentiality,” the court ordered.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner, informed the court that there was a government order granting certain benefits under the CMRF to HIV patients and that these benefits have to be applied for by submitting an application to the District Collector (DC).
However, in order to do the same, the HIV-infected persons are often forced to take the assistance of platforms like Akshaya centres to upload their applications and medical documents, since many of such patients belong to the lowest income strata.
The counsel raised concern over the risk of the HIV-positive person’s confidentiality being breached in the process and also emphasised that the state government had an obligation to direct the DCs to formulate protocols to ensure that such breaches do not happen.
“There can be no doubt at all that the requirement of maintenance of confidentiality of the information related to persons like the petitioner is paramount and unassailable. Since the right to privacy is a constitutional guarantee available to the petitioner and such other persons, it is apodictic that State of Kerala, as also the DCs, are now obligated to ensure that confidentiality is maintained at every stage, for which specific safeguards have to be put in place,” said the Judge.
Therefore, the high court has asked the government to file its response by September 29 and hearing will take place on October 3.