The Delhi High Court on Thursday disposed off a petition challenging the Draft Health Data Management Policy floated by the central government to govern data under the National Digital Health Mission. The petitioners, disability rights activist Dr. Satendra Singh and lawyers from digital rights group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), raised several issues around the consultation period, which was initially just a week, and later extended by another week.

The bench, consisting Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, directed the central government to consider the issues raised by the petitioner with regard to the policy, including concerns around the consultation process. “The suggestions you made will be considered by the government, prior to closing consultations. They will come up with reasons why [the] consultation has been done in a certain manner. The grievance you have can be raised after the policy is finalised, if you find that the policy is inadequate or unreasonable,” Justice Jalan said.

“The ground of inadequacy of the consultation process are permitted to be raised as and when such policy is challenged [after it is finalised]. The grounds [around the consultation process] are not decided by this court,” Chief Justice Patel said. “Don’t let the procedural complications become so cumbersome that the government is discouraged to go for a pre-legislative process unless statutorily mandated,” Justice Jalan said.

Internet Freedom Foundation was represented by lawyers Rajshekhar Rao and Vrinda Bhandari.

The Draft Health Data Management Policy is an expansive and broad policy the will govern all the data under the National Digital Health Mission. It will govern how sensitive personal data, which includes financial, sexual, and health data, will be managed by private and government players in the ecosystem. The policy was made public on August 26, asking for all public inputs to be submitted by an unreasonable timeline of just a week. After criticism, the deadline was extended by just another week to September 10.

Petition details: W.P. 5959/2020

This story will be updated with the court’s order when it becomes available.