Don’t Clamp Down On Citizen Voices: Supreme Court Warns States
In a clear, emphatic message to state governments that have threatened citizens with legal action for making public complaints regarding lack of medical facilities as well as oxygen, Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud made clear such action would be considered contempt of court.
Leading a three-judge bench in a hearing on distribution and supply of essential services during this Covid-19 second wave, Justice Chandrachud said;
“We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievance, there is no reason to make a presumption that those are not genuine.”
Let a very strong message go that we will treat this as the contempt of our court if such grievance is considered for action, he said. Let a strong message go to the states and the DGPs of the states. If any citizen is harassed for making grievance for (hospital) bed, oxygen then we will take action, he reiterated.
In recent days, at least one state, Uttar Pradesh, has threatened to invoke the National Security Act and seize the property of those making false complaints or spreading rumours regarding lack of medical facilities.
“Let us hear the voices of our citizens and not clamp down their voices,” Justice Chandrachud said during the virtual hearing.
These were verbal remarks made in the course of the hearing and the judge made no reference to any specific state government. His co-judges on the bench include Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat.
Subsequently, in their order published on May 2, the judges directed the central and state governments to notify all chief secretaries, heads of police that “any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this Court”.
The short supply of oxygen in several states across India has prompted citizens to make desperate public pleas for help via news media and social media.