Kerala High Court questions State govt on citizen's privacy in Sabarimala Virtual Queue row

  • Gargi Chatterjee
  • 04:57 PM, 13 Oct 2021

The Kerala High Court bench of Anil K Narendran and K Babu asked whether the details of citizens who book for virtual queue of Sabarimala darshan, is available to the private company which operates the system.

The Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) questioning the legality of the 'Sabarimala Pilgrim Management System' ('SPMS’), implemented by Kerala police. Due to Covid-19, Saabarimala darshan is being held virtually.

As per Kerala police, the virtual queue is "a limited subscription, first come first serve basis service" to provide. The system issues tickets to darshanatris for darshan at Sabarimala. The petitioners in the plea have alleged that currently people who are RT-PCR test negative and are fully vaccinated are allowed to enter the temple. Hence, there is no requirement for virtual darshan. Furthermore, citizens have to share personal details such as name, age, address, contact number, photograph, details of photo identity cards etc., to get on the virtual queue, without any assurance regarding the protection of their privacy. The process has been made mandatory whilst being arbitrary.

The Petitioner have further alleged that the State and police is misusing the power vested in them in the pretext of crowd control and current Covid-19 situation. The petition further states that the state government is onloading on personal information of lakhs of pilgrims for their own ‘analytical process’. This amounts to breach of trust, the petitioner contended.

The Government has responded that it is only in charge of crowd control, other than that every aspect of the temple is handled by Dawson Devasom Employees Front which is a body of Travancore Devasom employees. If 15,000 people sign up on the virtual queue, only 3000 show up. In lieu of the same, the Division Bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and K Babu sought details regarding the privacy of data submitted by the devotees who opt for the virtual queue system.

The Court also inquired if such details furnished by the devotees are accessible to the private entity managing the website.

Cause Title: Suo Moto v. Travancore Devaswom Board