SC asks states to not clamp down SOS calls on social media, warns of contempt action

10

“If citizens communicate their grievance on social media and internet, then it cannot be said that it’s wrong information,” observed Justice DY Chandrachud today while hearing the suo moto case pertaining to COVID-19 related issues.

The Court warned that it will initiate contempt proceedings against such officers found to be clamping down any such information.

Referring to threats of coercive action against people putting SOS calls on social media, the Bench also comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said, “We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievance on social media and internet then it cannot be said its wrong information.”

The Court added that clamping down of any information by the authorities will be treated as a Contempt of Court. “Let a strong message go to all the states and DGP of states,” it observed.

Recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also remarked that the social media is doing a good job in reaching out to people in urgent medical needs.

Amid acute shortage of oxygen and drugs that are essential in treatment of Covid-19 during the second wave, many affected people have been resorting to social media to seek assistance in procurement of resources.

Many celebrities and social media influencers have also lent a voluntary hand in compiling real-time information on availability of resources and sharing toolkits.

The SC’s remarks assume relevance in view of UP Government’s decision to prosecute people under National Security Act for allegedly raising false alarms on social media.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had asserted at a virtual press meet that there is no shortage of oxygen in any private or public COVID-19 hospital in the State and that action under National Security Act may be taken against people spreading “rumours” on social media.

Adityanath also issued instructions to high-rank Police officials to “keep a watch” on people spreading rumours, and duly investigate all such incidents to see if the scarcity was reported just to create fear.

Recently, the Amethi Police in UP recently booked a boy under various provisions of IPC for “spreading false information”. The accused had issued an appeal on Twitter for leads for oxygen availability to save the life of his grandfather who was critical.

Meanwhile, a PIL has also been filed before the Allahabad High Court by activist Saket Gokhale, seeking to restrain any coercive action.