The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that it has suspended a website which was linked to the official mobile application Aarogya Setu and promoting sale of medicines through e-pharmacies. The Centre's submission came on a plea seeking to de-link from Aarogya Setu mobile app, the website -- www.aarogyasetumitr.in -- as it was acting as a marketing tool for e-pharmacies only.
In view of the Centre's stand, Justice Navin Chawla disposed of the petition filed by South Chemists and Distributors Association. The order, passed on Tuesday, was made available on the court's website on Wednesday. The Aarogya Setu application makes use of bluetooth and GPS to alert users who may have encountered people who later test positive for the coronavirus.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya, representing the Centre, submitted that the operation of www.aarogyasetumitr.in has been suspended. She further said that if at all the website is to be re-launched, the authorities shall keep in mind the issues raised by the petitioners in the petition.
The plea has said the website, is linked to the Aarogya Setu app in a "highly illegal, arbitrary and discriminatory manner". It has said that the homepage of the website states "here are some essential healthcare services you can "avail from the safety and comfort of your home" and then lists only the e-pharmacies.
There is no mention that medicines can also be procured by the local pharmacy stores which operate offline. It is submitted that the respondents (authorities) cannot be allowed to mislead the users of a government developed and mandated mobile application to believe that the drugs for treatment of COVID19 or to contain the spread of the disease are available only through the e-pharmacies," said the plea, filed through senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog and lawyers Amit Gupta and Mansi Kukreja.
The Centre had earlier opposed the plea and said these are extraordinary circumstances and the website has been developed for easy accessibility of medicines to COVID-19 patients. The petition has said there is absolutely no basis for a government owned platform be used to promote private commercial ventures.
It has sought direction to the Ministry of Electronics and IT, National Informatics Centre and Niti Aayog to take steps so that the name 'aarogya setu' or any identical/ deceptively similar name is not mis-used to sponsor the commercial interests of arbitrarily hand picked entities.
It has further sought to take steps for immediate closure of the website. The has plea said the authorities have allowed government developed mobile application 'Aarogya setu', which has been launched with a salient feature of limiting the spread of COVID-19, to be used for the benefit of selected handpicked companies "The mobile application 'Aarogya setu' itself gives a link to website http://www.aarogyasetumitr.in/ which gives a wrong and misleading impression to a user that the website as well as the information made available on it is also government mandated and approved," it has said.
It has claimed that the similarity in the names of the mobile application and the website is "intentional" and the website seeks to take advantage of the name and goodwill which has been generated by Aarogya setu, even though the website is not government owned. The plea has said the criteria for getting listed as a vendor on the website is that the entity should be an e-pharmacy, which is "arbitrary, without any intelligible differentia, wholly illegal and discriminatory".