Madras High Court Rules Obtaining List of Unvaccinated Individuals Not a Breach of Sensitive Personal Data

Madras Hc Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: February 11, 2024 at 12:53 IST

In a recent ruling, the Madras High Court stated that companies acquiring lists of individuals who have not received vaccinations do not violate regulations regarding the circulation of sensitive personal data.

The Court’s decision came as it permitted a petition seeking to dismiss proceedings under relevant sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

The Court acknowledged the efforts of a company, the petitioner in this case, to ensure COVID-19 vaccination among its employees as a protective measure.

It emphasized that obtaining a list of unvaccinated individuals does not constitute the circulation of sensitive personal data, as it is a part of the company’s internal efforts to safeguard against the virus.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, presiding over the case, noted that the company’s actions, including following up with employees for vaccination, did not violate Section 43A of the IT Act.

The Court further clarified that termination of an employee for unauthorized absence does not indirectly become an offense under Section 72A of the IT Act.

The case originated during the COVID-19 pandemic when the company encouraged vaccination among its employees. The respondent refused to disclose vaccination status, citing privacy concerns and protesting against mandatory vaccination.

The company, implementing safety protocols, identified unvaccinated employees, leading to the termination of the respondent.

The Court emphasized that Section 43A of the IT Act is not strictly categorized as an offense but more as a tort, leading to compensation for damages. It concluded that even if the accusations in the complaint were true, there was no evident offense on the part of the company, suggesting malicious intent on the part of the respondent.

The Court further highlighted the responsibility of organizations to prioritize the well-being of the majority during the pandemic. It noted that while individuals have the right to refuse vaccination, institutions must take necessary precautions to protect public health.

In conclusion, the Madras High Court allowed the petition, quashing the proceedings and deeming the respondent’s complaint as an abuse of the legal process.

Case Title: Gopal Vttal v Kamatci Shankar Arumugam (2024:MHC:6072)

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