A clampdown on messages for assistance on social media is the “worst way” to take care of the Covid-19 disaster, stated the Supreme Court on Friday, warning all state governments in opposition to taking motion in opposition to individuals utilizing on-line platforms to make determined appeals for oxygen, important medicines, and different assist.

Any such motion by governments or state police can be handled as a contempt of court docket, the highest court docket 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,” noticed a bench headed by justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

The bench, which included justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, gave examples of varied social media posts, asking for assist when any individual wanted an oxygen cylinder, or a mattress 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,” stated the bench, including it needed to warning all of the state governments and their director generals of police (DGPs) in opposition to any motion in opposition to these searching for assist.

“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 docket.

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

Solicitor common Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Central authorities within the matter, agreed with the court docket, saying there couldn’t be any motion individuals who have been already in misery, asking for assist.

The court docket’s observations assume significance within the wake of a latest case lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district in opposition to a 26-year-old man for allegedly spreading “false information” on social media over the provision of oxygen. Shashank Yadav made an attraction on Twitter for an oxygen cylinder for his critically unwell grandfather, which the police later claimed was false. Earlier this week, Yadav was booked below the fees of the Epidemic Act and the Indian Penal Code for spreading false data with an intent to create panic in society. Yadav was taken to a police station for questioning, however was later let off.

In the backdrop of this case, activist Saket Gokhale this week moved the Allahabad excessive court docket searching for to restrain the UP authorities from taking coercive motion in opposition to such individuals who appealed for oxygen provide and different medical help on social media.

“Filing criminal cases against families of critical patients issuing SOS calls for oxygen on social media is a gross misuse of the powers of the state and is illegal coercive action that is being taken to maintain the image of the government and to clamp down on any criticism of their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and to present a fake picture that everything is hunky dory in the state,” said Gokhale’s petition, which is but to come back up for a listening to earlier than the excessive court docket.

“There is no clampdown or restriction on information, grievances communication on social media in the state. In fact, the state government’s various departments such as the police and others are tracking social media and also extending help, rescue, assistance. However, the state government will act on such people who will spread misinformation, ill-intent panic triggering or rumour-mongering,” stated a senior UP authorities officer requesting anonymity.

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