The Supreme Court has warned against the clampdown on information and any action against such grievances made on social media should be considered as contempt of court. The Court made this statement during a suo moto hearing on crisis related to oxygen supply, drug supply, and vaccine policy.
"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," said a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
"There should be free flow of information, we should hear voices of citizen," added the bench also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said. The bench also asked the Centre, states and all DGPs not to take any action against anyone posting a shortage of oxygen, beds or doctors as spreading the rumour.
Observing that even frontline doctors and healthcare workers were not getting beds for treatment, the bench said the healthcare infrastructure inherited over the past 70 years was not sufficient and the situation was grim.
The apex court said hostels, temples, churches and other places be opened for converting them as COVID-19 care centres.
"What happens to the marginalised and SC/ST population? Should they be left to the mercy of private hospitals", it asked.
The court also said the government must consider National Immunisation Programme for various vaccines and must think of providing free of cost vaccination to all citizens.
It said the healthcare sector has come to a breaking point and retired doctors or officials could be re-employed in this crisis.
The top court also said that private vaccine manufacturers cannot be allowed to decide which state should get how much. It allowed the Centre to give a PowerPoint presentation on COVID-19 preparation.
The SC's remarks on the dissemination of information assume significance in view of the UP Government's decision to prosecute people under the National Security Act for allegedly raising false alarms on social media.
Earlier, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had asserted at a virtual press meet that there is no shortage of oxygen in any private or public COVID-19 hospital in the State and that action under National Security Act may be taken against people spreading "rumours" on social media.
Adityanath also issued instructions to high-rank Police officials to "keep a watch" on people spreading rumours, and duly investigate all such incidents to see if the scarcity was reported just to create fear.
Recently, the Amethi Police in UP booked a boy under various provisions of IPC for "spreading false information". The accused had issued an appeal on Twitter for leads for oxygen availability to save the life of his grandfather who was critical.