While hearing a suo moto case on COVID-19 on Friday the Supreme Court said that it would initiate contempt proceedings against government officials found cracking down on citizens' calls for help on social media. Earlier this week the UP government had warned of action against those spreading "rumours" on social media.
A second wave of COVID-19 has hit India hard with 3,86,452 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours.
According to LiveLaw, mentioning threats of action against people for sending out messages for help on social media, a bench of Justices L.Nageswara Rao, S.Ravindra Bhat and D.Y. Chandrachud said: "We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievance on social media and internet then it cannot be said its wrong information."
The bench added that any clampdown on such information would be treated as contempt and said that a "strong message" should go out to all states and their director generals of police (DGPs).
The SC also told the Centre there should be a free flow of information and that it should hear the voice of citizens.The apex court said there should not be any presumption that grievances raised on the internet by citizens were false.
It observed that even doctors and healthcare workers were not getting beds, mentioning that the situation was grim. The apex court was of the opinion that hostels, temples, churches and other places be opened for converting them to COVID care centres. It also told the Centre that it should adopt a national immunisation model as poor people would not be able to pay for vaccines.
The apex court said the health care sector has reached a breaking point and retired doctors or officials could be re-employed. Private vaccine manufacturers cannot be allowed to decide which state should get how much, it added.
With the government machinery and the public and private healthcare systems failing people across the country, the kin of patients have taken to social media to ask for help in arranging for Oxygen, ICU and Oxygen beds in hospitals, medicines and for patient care.
Earlier, UP CM Yogi Adityanath had threatened to invoke the stringent National Security Act against those found spreading "rumours" and "spoiling the atmosphere".
"Due to such people, fear is increasing among the public. Even those who don’t need it, are worried about oxygen cylinders," The Hindu quoted him saying.
Active COVID-19 cases in India have crossed the 31-lakh mark with the official number of deaths due to the novel coronavirus at 2,08,330 with 3,498 new fatalities over the past day.
With PTI Inputs