- Will "treat this as contempt if any citizen is harassed": Supreme Court
- Social Media is flooded amid an alarming surge in Covid cases
- Top court also questioned different vaccine prices for states, centre
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A frightening spike in Covid cases in India - hit by a deadly second Covid wave - has led to a deluge of SOS messages on social media as hospitals scramble for resources. "There should not be any presumption that grievances raised on internet are false," the top court insisted today.
"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 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," Justice DY Chandrachud said. Even doctors and healthcare workers are not getting beds, he added, calling the situation "grim".
Last week, Twitter confirmed deletion of several tweets "in response to a legal request from the government". The posts were deleted for spreading misinformation on Covid, government sources had said.
As the government hopes to curb the spread with the new phase of vaccination starting tomorrow that widens the coverage to all adults, the top court yet again questioned the centre over the pricing of vaccines. "Why is the government not buying 100 per cent of doses produced in this time? Why should there be two prices for the centre and the states... what is the rationale?" the Supreme Court asked.
India must follow the "national immunisation model which we had followed since independence," the court said. "Pricing issue is extraordinarily serious. How will poor people find money to get vaccinated? We cannot have this private sector model," the court said. Hostels, temples, and mosques should be turned to Covid centers to tackle the spike, the top court suggested.
The centre has tweaked the vaccine policy to allow states and private entities to buy doses directly from vaccine makers. Manufacturers are free to supply 50 per cent of the doses to states and in the open market. The change in policy, however, has brought the government under criticism.
Last week, the government said its procurement price for both vaccines - Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and the Serum Institute's Covishield - would remain at Rs 150 per dose, and that the vaccines it procures will be free for states. Amid the controversy, Bharat Biotech has reduced the price for states from Rs 600 to Rs 400 per dose while the SII has cut the prices from Rs 400 to Rs 300.
The centre has "special responsibility towards Delhi," the Supreme Court said today, stressing that the national capital "represents micro problems of the country". The Supreme Court told the Arvind Kejriwal-government that this is "no time for political bickering", and it should cooperate with centre.
"The ground situation in Delhi is (medical) oxygen is really not available. Not only in Delhi, but also Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. What is the effect we are going to see today and the next hearing? How much oxygen you are going to provide to these critical states?" Justice Chandachud asked the centre.
The centre told the court that the transportation of oxygen tankers to Delhi is a huge logistical challenge and it would be eased out soon. "Delhi's problem is acute because it is a non-industrial state. By and large, we have been supplying oxygen to all states," the government said. Virtual control rooms are operating 24x7, it said.