SC asks media to refrain from disseminating unverified news & directs Centre to take action against those spreading fake news on the social media

The Supreme Court of India has taken serious note of the circulation of fake news for allegedly provoking migrant labourers to depart for their home states apprehending starvation during the nationwide lockdown intended to curb the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. The order passed by the Division Bench comprising CJI Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, says  “The migration of large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months. Such panic driven migration has caused untold sufferings to those who believed and acted on such news. In fact, some have lost their lives in the process’ ’The order says ‘’ We expect the Media (print, electronic or social) to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that unverified news capable of causing panic is not disseminated. A daily bulletin by the Government of India through all media avenues including social media and forums to clear the doubts of people would be made active within a period of 24 hours as submitted by the Solicitor General of India.” The written order was issued on Tuesday, April 01.’’We do not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but direct the media (to) refer to and publish the official version about the developments,” it added. The court earlier had  heard two PILs filed by advocate Alok Srivastava and social activist Rashmi Bansal seeking adequate relief and rehabilitation measures for the migrant labourers to prevent further spread of the COVID-19.Migrant workers had panicked and headed home because of “fake news” that the lockdown would extend beyond April 14 and directed journalists to publish the “official version” on the outbreak. Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao have asked the government to invoke Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which provides for a year’s imprisonment, against mainstream and social media for spreading fake news.…We are informed that the labourers who are unemployed due to lockdown were apprehensive about their survival. Panic was created by some fake news that the lockdown would last for more than three months,” the bench said.’’…Such panic-driven migration has caused untold suffering to those who believed and acted on such news. In fact, some have lost their lives in the process. It is therefore not possible for us to overlook this menace of fake news either by electronic, print or social media….” The court also asked the Centre to create a 24-hour portal with expert healthcare professionals to answer questions from the people to curb the spread of fake news. It told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the government must hold regular media briefings to give authentic information to the public. causing panic is not disseminated. A daily bulletin by the Government of India through all media avenues including social media and forums to clear the doubts of people would be made active within a period of 24 hours as submitted by the Solicitor General of India,” the written order uploaded at night said.“.The solicitor-general had told the SC  that fake news was the single most unmanageable problem during the crisis. The Chief Justice asked the Centre to ensure that adequate number of counsellors or community leaders are deployed to counsel the homeless and day labourers to stay in the shelters.” We want to impress upon you that the panic will destroy more lives than the virus. You need counsellors. You can have bhajan kirtan and namaz or whatever you want but you have to give strength to the people,” Chief Justice Bobde told the government during the hearing. “

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