India's top court on Friday warned state governments across the country against any clampdown on citizens taking to social media for help or airing their grievances amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said that it would initiate contempt action against state governments and law enforcement authorities if they file a police case or arrest people appealing for help or putting out their SOS messages on social media or elsewhere during the pandemic.
"It is of grave concern to me as a citizen or (a) judge. If citizens communicate their grievances on social media, we do not want a clampdown on information. Let us hear their voices. We will treat this as contempt if any citizen is harassed if they want bed or oxygen. We are in (a) human crisis," said Justice DY Chandrachud, who led the bench.
"Even doctors and healthcare workers are not getting beds," he said, describing the situation in the country "grim".
The court's warning came in the wake of a deluge of SOS messages on social media amid an escalating oxygen crisis in India, particularly in the national capital. Hospitals after hospitals in Delhi and its suburbs are sending out SOS messages to health authorities daily, seeking adequate supply of the life-saving gas.
Last week, at least 50 Covid patients on life support died at two leading Delhi hospitals due to oxygen shortage. Jaipur Golden Hospital, a dedicated Covid medical facility in Delhi, said on Saturday morning that 25 Covid patients died around midnight on Friday due to "low-supply oxygen" to critical patients on ventilator.
On Friday morning too, another leading hospital in Delhi announced the deaths of 25 patients in 24 hours due to a shortage of oxygen.In a statement, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital had said, "25 sickest patients have died in the last 24 hours. Oxygen will last another two hours. Major crisis likely. Lives of another 60 sickest patients at risk, need urgent intervention."
It may also be mentioned here that 24 Covid patients on ventilator at a government hospital in the western Indian state of Maharashtra died on Wednesday after their oxygen supply ran out following leakage of the life-supporting gas from a tanker.
The tanker was brought to Zakir Hussain Municipal Hospital in the state's Nashik district to replenish the oxygen cylinders at the medical facility for continuous supply to the 150-plus Covid-19 patients on life support.