Panaji, Dec 7 (IANS) Dubbing a public interest litigation seeking to know the health status of ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as a “roving and fishing” enquiry, Goa Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma on Friday told the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court that disclosing Parrikar’s health records will set a “dangerous precedent” for the future and allow indiscriminate access to medical records of highly-placed persons citing “public interest”.
The disclosure was made in form of an affidavit by the top bureaucrat, in connection with a petition being heard by the court, which seeks public disclosure of the health status of ailing Parrikar.
While skirting the issue of status of the Goa Chief Minister’s health, which has been sought by social activist Trajano D’Mello in his petition filed last month, the top bureaucrat said that details about the former Defence Minister’s health could not be disclosed in the public domain “merely because he holds a public office”, and argued for Parrikar’s right to privacy.
Sharma also rejected a charge made in the petition that two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office-bearers were clearing files by forging Parrikar’s signature, calling it a “defamatory” accusation.
“The present petition although captioned as a public interest litigation is nothing but a roving and fishing inquiry. It is based on anecdotal statements and relies upon surmises and conjectures of the petitioner,” Sharma said in his affidavit, which was submitted to the high court’s Registrar in Panaji, even as the court is scheduled to hear the matter on December 10.
Sharma also cautioned against accepting the petitioner’s request for making public Parrikar’s health status by the court.
“I say that if the contentions of the petitioner are accepted, the same will set a very dangerous precedent where everybody/ anybody will start asking for medical records of persons occupying high office using the masquerade of ‘public interest’. I say that it will be impossible to draw a line on what health problem, howsoever minor or major, should be disclosed to the public,” Sharma said.
There could be no “larger public interest in disclosing the personal details of any person”, he said and added that health problems of a person cannot be subjected to scrutiny, as the same amounts to unwarranted invasion of a person’s privacy.
Commenting on the charge made in the petition which alleges, quoting media reports, that two BJP office bearers were forging Parrikar’s signatures while clearing government business, the Chief Secretary said: “This respondent denies allegation of the petitioner that there are two senior BJP office-bearers who are clearing the files of the Chief Minister by forging his signature…the averment is also defamatory to a mainstream political party, who has not been impleaded into the present petition.”
Parrikar is suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer and has been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, New York and Delhi for nearly nine months.
He returned from New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences on October 14 and has not moved out of his private residence ever since for any official event.
The opposition, as well ruling coalition allies, have been demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister, claiming that the administration has come to a standstill due to Parrikar’s absence.
Petitioner Trajano D’Mello has sought that the court direct the state’s Chief Secretary to evaluate the former Defence Minister’s health by a panel of expert doctors and release the medical report in public domain.