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Don't Clamp Down on SOS COVID-19 Messages, Supreme Court Warns States, Police

"We don't want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances is considered for action," the bench said.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday has said that citizens who are using social media to amplify their COVID-19-related concerns and requirements should not face any backlash from the police.

“I flag this issue at the outset. 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. We don’t want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances is considered for action,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said, according to Bar and Bench.

A bench headed by Justice Chandrachud and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat was hearing the suo moto case registered by the apex court on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the country.

All states and DGPs must be told that no clampdown on information can occur, Justice Chandrachud continued.

Also read: The Pandemic Has Yet Again Exposed Modi’s Insidious Politics of ‘Narrative Control’

Recently, LiveLaw reported, the Punjab and Haryana high court also lauded the role social media users were playing in helping those in dire need of oxygen, hospital beds and medication.

The Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has been particularly high-handed recently in invoking police action against those who question the states COVID-19 management or even simply ask for help. As The Wire has reported, the Adityanath administration is suppressing all indications of what is actually happening on the ground.

At a recent meeting, Adityanath asked senior administrative and police officials to “crack down” on hospitals that discharge patients on the grounds of a shortage of oxygen or “complain” about shortages to the media.

Earlier this week, the Amethi police warned a young man that criminal action may be taken against him after he asked for oxygen for his grandmother on Twitter. While the police first said charges against him would include circulating a rumour “with intent to cause… fear or alarm… whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility” and engaging in acts likely to spread infectious diseases, they later backtracked and said they were only warning him against spreading rumours.