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UP Police Files Criminal Case Against Youth for Seeking Oxygen Cylinder on Twitter

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Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi Police on Tuesday tweeted that it had registered a criminal case against a youth for allegedly spreading rumours on social media regarding oxygen supply.

On Monday, Shashank Yadav tweeted that he needed an oxygen cylinder urgently and tagged actor Sonu Sood. He reportedly put out the SOS for his ailing grandfather, who died of a heart attack a few hours later. Although he hadn’t mentioned if his grandfather was a Covid-19 patient, the Amethi Police tweeted that his grandfather had not been suffering from Covid-19 and did not have a prescription for oxygen.

At this time, posting such scary posts on social media is not only is not just condemnable but a criminal offence,” the police’s tweet said.

Shortly after Monday midnight, The Wire‘s senior editor Arfa Khanum Sherwani who was contacted by Yadav’s friend, tweeted regarding the same while tagging Union minister Smriti Irani as Amethi is her constituency. Irani responded to the tweet saying she had called Yadav thrice. Since there was no response from his end, she said she had informed the Amethi Police. Yadav’s friend later informed Sherwani and Irani that Yadav’s grandfather had died.

On Tuesday, the Amethi Police tweeted Amethi chief medical officer’s report in reply to Sherwani’s tweet that stated that Yadav’s grandfather had not been suffering from Covid-19 and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Durgapur, West Bengal.

While neither Yadav nor Sherwani mentioned any Covid-19 related ailments in their tweets, the Amethi Police mentioned the virus and accused Yadav of spreading rumours and fear among people.

Following the incident, the Amethi Police registered a case under Sections 188, 269 and 505 (1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code, along with Section 3 of the Epidemic Act and Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act.

While social media platforms are flooded with people reporting shortage of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, crematoriums and burial ground spaces in Uttar Pradesh, the state government headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been maintaining that the situation is under control.

According to The Hindu, Adityanath has asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and the Gangsters Act against “anti-social” elements who hoard medicines for “black marketing”, “spread rumours and propaganda” on social media.

This comes within a few days after the Central government ordered Twitter to remove tweets that criticise the government for the mismanagement of the second wave of Covid-19. Twitter has withheld over 50 posts since April 24 including tweets by Congress’ national spokesperson Pawan Khera, West Bengal labour and law Minister Moloy Ghatak, filmmakers Avinash Das and Vinod Kapri, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, Member of Parliament Revanth Reddy, journalist Pieter Friedrich, Congress MP Anumula Revanth Reddy, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Vickram Chaturvedi, and several others.

The second wave of Covid-19 has been taking a heavy toll on the country’s healthcare, with thousands of people dying due to lack of oxygen, ventilators, hospital beds, vaccines and medicines. While several celebrities, politicians and citizens have been sharing details of oxygen suppliers, vaccinations and healthcare facilities, many people have been criticising the Centre’s inability to tackle the situation.

On Friday, the Supreme Court warned the state governments that it will initiate contempt proceedings against officers who would be found clamping down any SOS calls by citizens on social media regarding the abovementioned, Live Law reported.

“If citizens communicate their grievance on social media and internet, then it cannot be said that it’s wrong information,” the court observed.

With 2,259 new cases on Tuesday, the total number of active Covid-19 cases in Uttar Pradesh is 3,06,458 and with 264 deaths since Tuesday, the cumulative deaths in the state is 11,678, according to the government data.

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