Amid an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Supreme Court on Friday said that no state should clampdown on information if citizens communicate their grievances on social media.
"We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievance on social media, then it cannot be said it's 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," the apex court said.
"There should be free flow of information, we should hear voices of citizen," said a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, and asked the Centre, states and all DGPs not to take any action against anyone posting a shortage of oxygen, beds or doctors as spreading rumour.
Observing that even frontline doctors and healthcare workers were not getting beds for treatment, the bench said the healthcare infrastructure inherited over past 70 years was not sufficient and the situation was grim.
The apex court said hostels, temples, churches and other places be opened for converting them as COVID-19 care centres.
It said the Centre should adopt national immunization model as poor people will not be able to pay for vaccines.
"What happens to the marginalised and SC/ST population? Should they be left to the mercy of private hospitals," it asked.
The court also said the government must consider National Immunisation Programme for various vaccines and must think of providing free of cost vaccination to all citizens.
It said the healthcare sector has come to a breakpoint and retired doctors or officials could be re-employed in this crisis.
The top court also said that private vaccine manufacturers cannot be allowed to decide which state should get how much.
It allowed the Centre to give a power point power point presentation on COVID-19 preparation.
The apex court on April 22 took suo motu cognizance of the "alarming situation" in connection with various health emergencies including oxygen shortage, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and issued notice to the Centre seeking a response on kinds of immediate and effective action it can take to handle such situation.
The Court, during the previous hearing, asked the Centre to present and apprise it as to whether a national plan can be prepared to handle this worrisome situation. It made these remarks, after noting and taking into the record at least six different state High Courts, including the Delhi High Court, have been hearing the matter on the same issues.
(With inputs from PTI)