The Indian Supreme Court on Friday warned State governments and police against clamping down on the spread of information or calls for help through social media from citizens affected by COVID-19.

The observation was made during a suo moto hearing in which the court had taken cognizance on issues related to oxygen supply, drug supply, and vaccine policy in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, said there should not be any clampdown on information.

A Special Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat said any move by any State to punish citizens who take to the social media to seek help for oxygen cylinders, COVID-19 drugs, beds, hospitalisation, etc, amid a rampaging second wave would attract contempt of court action. “We don’t want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances is considered for action. Let a strong message go to all the States and DGPs of States. Clampdown of information is contrary to basic precepts,” Justice Chandrachud made a categorical statement in court.

Justice Chandrachud said free flow of information in the 1970 famine enabled the government to tackle problem effectively as compared to clampdown during the 1918 pandemic.

Justice Rao reminded the States that this was a time of great crisis. The Bench said empathy and action should be the rule of the day.

At one point, Justice Chandrachud questioned how the Centre intended to ensure registration for vaccines for illiterate people considering the fact that the COWIN app registration was mandatory. The Bench also asked how the Centre expected a sense of equity from the vaccine manufacturers.

Justice Bhat pointed out that manufacturers were charging ?150 from the Centre while vaccines to the States were priced at ?300.


“Why should we as a nation pay this? The price difference becomes ?30 to 40,000 crore… AstraZeneca is providing vaccines at far lower price to the U.S. citizens then why should we be paying so much?” Justice Bhat asked.

The Bench asked whether, now, one State would get priority access over another in getting the vaccines. The court asked the government why it could not follow a national immunisation programme policy with respect to vaccines. How will poor people find money to get vaccinated? We cannot have this private sector model,” the court said.

The bench also turned to the plight of medical workers, nurses and doctors. It said it was not enough to declare them ‘COVID Warriors’, what was being done for them on the ground.

“What is being done for shortage of medical staff? How are doctors being safeguarded and treated for COVID-19,” Justice Chandrachud asked the government.(the Hindu)


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