The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday said a clampdown on COVID-19 information will be treated as "contempt of court", and that directions should be issued to DGPs (director generals of police) of the country in this regard.
The SC bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat ruled that there should be a free flow of information and voices of citizens should be heard. The apex court ruled that there should not be any presumption that grievances raised on the internet by citizens are false.
"I flag this issue at the outset. We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievances on social media and the internet, then it cannot be said to be wrong information. We don't want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances are considered for action," Justice Chandrachud said, reported Bar & Bench.
The Supreme Court observed that the Covid-19 situation in India is "grim" and that even doctors and healthcare workers are not getting beds. As India battles everything from bed crunch to the shortage of critical hospital equipment, the SC ruled that hostels, temples, churches and other places should be opened to convert them into COVID-care centres.
On the issue of drugmakers raising prices of vaccines for those from 18-45 years of age, the SC told the Centre it should adopt a "national immunisation model" as poor people will not be able to pay for vaccines.
The SC observed that health infrastructure, which India inherited over the past 70 years, is not "adequate". It said the healthcare infrastructure in India has come to a breaking point and retired doctors or officials could be re-employed to manage the Covid situation effectively.
Even though the Centre plans to launch phase 3 of vaccination from May 1, most states have flagged concerns over the shortage of vaccines and have asserted that they'll not be able to start vaccination from May 1.
The Supreme Court said private vaccine manufacturers can't be allowed to decide which state should get how much (vaccine vials).
The SC ruling comes days after the Yogi Adityanath government in UP ordered strict civil and criminal action against those making "false" appeals via social media to seek Covid-related help. The Supreme Court was hearing a "suo motu case" to examine the Covid-19 situation in the country.
With PTI inputs