Will treat action against pleas on social media as contempt: Supreme Court

New Delhi (TIP): A clampdown on messages for help on social media is the “worst way” to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, said the Supreme Court on Friday, April 30, warning all state governments against taking action against people using online platforms to make desperate appeals for oxygen, essential medicines, and other help.

Any such action by governments or state police would be treated as a contempt of court, the top court added.

“It is a matter of grave concerns to us. If citizens communicate their grievances either on the Internet or on social media, there cannot be a clampdown. We don’t want a clampdown of information. That’s the worst way of dealing with a crisis,” observed a bench headed by justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

The bench, which included justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, gave examples of various social media posts, asking for help when somebody needed an oxygen cylinder, or a bed in a hospital, or the drug remdesivir.

“To act against someone who is seeking help for oxygen or a medicine is against the basis precept,” said the bench, adding it wanted to caution all the state governments and their director generals of police (DGPs) against any action against those seeking help.

“Let this message go very clearly to all states and their DGPs, we will treat this as a contempt of this court of they want a clampdown on communication. Let everyone understand that we are not projecting anyone in a bad light but looking out for help,” remarked the court.

The bench concluded its discussion on the issue by making it unequivocal: “Let information flow freely. Let us hear the voices of our citizens and not a clampdown on them.”

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Central government in the matter, agreed with the court, saying there could not be any action people who were already in distress, asking for help.

The court’s observations assume significance in the wake of a recent case lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district against a 26-year-old man for allegedly spreading “false information” on social media over the supply of oxygen. Shashank Yadav made an appeal on Twitter for an oxygen cylinder for his critically ill grandfather, which the police later claimed was false. Earlier this week, Yadav was booked under the charges of the Epidemic Act and the Indian Penal Code for spreading false information with an intent to create panic in society. Yadav was taken to a police station for questioning, but was later let off.         Source: HT

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