It is a grave concern to me as a citizen or judge. If citizens communicate their grievances on social media, we do not want to clamp down on information,” Justice DY Chandrahud said during the hearing as cases of Covid-19 surged across the country.
In a historic judgement, the honorable Supreme Court has ordered no clampdown on information if citizens communicate their grievances pertaining to Covid-19 treatment on social media. If there any 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 top court also said that the healthcare infrastructure has been inherited in the last 70 years and so the proceedings are not to criticise the Centre or states. “We are concerned only about the health of the people and it is not to pass a value judgment,” Chandrachud said.
The court said that Centre should show investment by it to ramp up the manufacture of vaccines. “This will be the most important intervention by the government when private manufacturers have been funded to produce vaccines,” the apex court said.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta said Delhi has been unable to lift oxygen because of lack of tankers. Justice Chandrachud said, “According to you, Delhi hasn’t been able to lift but we can’t tell people that your parents or children or spouse can’t be helped now. You tell us the solution.”
The court also questioned the government over the pricing of vaccines. The curt asked why is the government not buying 100 per cent of doses. “Why should there be two prices for the centre and the states… what is the rationale,” it asked.
The SG explained that the Centre is assisting all states asking for help and to a large extent, problems of Delhi are also eased out. The top court asked about a timeline to increase the number of tankers to facilitate transportation. “Give Delhi the additional 200 metric ton of oxygen they need. And also ensure it reaches Delhi,” the Supreme Court asked SG Mehta.
The Supreme Court said Delhi represents people from the entire country and the Centre has a peculiar role. “Forget that somebody wasn’t able to lift the oxygen but you have to push through because you have to protect lives. You have a special responsibility,” it added.
The Supreme Court also asked what has been done to provide treatment to healthcare professionals who are contacting coronavirus disease (Covid-19). During the previous hearing, the court asked the Centre to present and apprise it as to whether a national plan can be prepared to handle this worrisome situation.
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 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.