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Don’t clamp down on citizens seeking COVID-19 help on social media, Supreme court tells states

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered state governments and their police departments to not take action against people affected by COVID-19 seeking help on social media. A special bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said that any action to punish citizens who put out calls for hospital beds, COVID19 medicines, and so on would attract contempt of court. The Court’s statement was first reported by LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.

“If citizens communicate their grievance on social media and internet, then it cannot be said it’s wrong information,” observed Justice Chandrachud. The bench was hearing a suo moto case on COVID19 related issues. The court also said it was sending a “strong message” to all states and DGPs of states on this matter.

The countrywide second wave of COVID19 has seen several people take to Twitter and other social media platforms, desperately seeking help. Many of them, as MediaNama has reported previously, have even put out their Aadhaar number and other sensitive details, seeking help in finding anything from Remdesivir injections to plasma and ICU beds.

The Supreme Court’s statement is likely a reaction to the Uttar Pradesh’s recent decision to clamp down on spreading any information about the shortage of medical supplies in the state. The Yogi Adityanath-led government had decided to take action against hospitals in the state that claim to run out of oxygen. The state police later announced that people spreading “misleading” social media posts related to the COVID19 situation would be penalised. Not long after, a man in Amethi was booked after he made requests for oxygen cylinders for this ailing grandfather. The Japalbur administration in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, too, has issued a diktat against COVID19 related posts on social media platforms.

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