A fake news ‘infodemic’ is being circulated on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms with numerous false claims including fake news/videos, that apart from government, no other person is allowed to post any update or share any forward related to COVID-19.
THE MESSAGE READS AS FOLLOWS :
Mandate for All :
Tonight 12(midnight) onwards Disaster Management Act has been implemented across the country. According to this update, apart from the Govt department, no other citizen is allowed to post any update or share any forward related to Corona virus and it being punishable offence.
Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform the groups.
Please adhere this strictly”
Further, this fake news is circulated with a link of the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court stating that no person other than the Government is allowed to share news and videos about COVID-19.
This is to note that the above mentioned was misleading and fake news. The Hon’ble Supreme Court during a hearing, expressed concerns about the spread of fake news in relation to the pandemic, and urged media to be careful in reporting. The Court expressly stated that it was not intending to curb free discussion on the pandemic; but asked the media to publish the official version.
The relevant part of the order passed by a divisional bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde reads as under –
“We do not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but direct the media refer to and publish the official version about the developments”.
In fact, the Press Information Bureau has taken a stand against this fake news being circulated on various social media platforms and has clarified that there is no such restriction. The screenshot of the same is enclosed herein below :-
However it is important to note that, the central government on March 24, the day when the 21-day lockdown was announced, had stated that the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was being invoked to deal with Covid-19. Further as per the act, there is no such provision which says that apart from government departments, no other citizen is allowed to update or share news related to a disaster. The copy of the Central government order is enclosed herein below:-
Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act provides for punishment for to a person who makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity leading to panic.
The relevant section reads as under
Punishment for false warning.—Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine. —Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.”
Hence it can be emphatically concluded that there is no such law and/or order as on date passed, restricting citizens from sharing any news or updates about the coronavirus situation, as long as it is not false information.
–Adv. Raghavendra S. Mehrotra, Founder & Managing partner of Lawkhart Legal and Team of Lawkhart Legal
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