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Clampdown on citizens COVID-related grievances online will be considered ‘contempt of court’, says SC

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The Supreme Court on Friday said there should not be any clampdown on citizens communicating their grievances related to COVID-19 on social media. The bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud is hearing a suo motu case on issues related to the oxygen supply, drug supply, and vaccine policy in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The apex court said, “We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievance on social media, then it cannot be said it is wrong information. We do not want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances are considered for action.” “Let a strong message go to all the states and DGP of states that clampdown of info is contrary to basic precepts,” the court said.

The Bench headed by Justice Chandrachud also asked the Centre regarding the quantity of oxygen made available to critical states. On oxygen supply to Delhi through tankers, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the Centre said, “The Union government is providing tankers. There was some scarcity of tankers and now it has been eased out. Delhi is a non-industrial state and that is why the issue is more acute but we are putting more tankers to work. By and large, oxygen has been supplied to each and every heavy load state.”

“Delhi shows the demand had increased where there was 123 per cent increase and revised need was 700 MT and then you say you allocated 490 MT? If there is a 200 MT deficit then you should give that straight away to Delhi. Centre has an important responsibility as far as citizens of Delhi are concerned,” the apex court said. “You have said surplus is there in the steel sector, then use that and supply to Delhi. Between today and Monday there will be 500 deaths in our hands,” it said.

The court further said to Mehta, “Delhi represents the nation and you have to push through since you have to save lives, you have a special responsibility as the Centre. As a national authority which has a responsibility to the national capital you are answerable to the citizens.”

The apex court on April 22 took suo motu cognizance of the “alarming situation” in connection with various health emergencies including oxygen shortage, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and issued notice to the Centre seeking a response on kinds of immediate and effective action it can take to handle such situation.

The Court, during the previous hearing, asked the Centre to present and apprise it as to whether a national plan can be prepared to handle this worrisome situation. It made these remarks, after noting and taking into the record at least six different state High Courts, including the Delhi High Court, have been hearing the matter on the same issues.

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