In recent times, Indians have shown #nationalpride by cooperating with the Prime Minister’s directions of obeying complete #Lockdown. Such a #nationalist approach by a greater majority of Indians displays unity and #patriotism at its best. It is truly commendable that a nation having a population of 1.3 Billion people have been united in fighting the #Pandemic. By all counts, India has done very well in fighting the Pandemic, as our figures of #Covid19-positive patients are very low compared to most countries. The death rate is also low and most of the deaths have been in cases, where patients already have some major disease and Covid19 has only aggravated the situation culminating in death.
However, despite this great display of national pride and patriotism, there are a few who have enjoyed in being mischief makers and in spreading false news about the Pandemic. Sadly, the #socialmedia, which is such a powerful tool in today’s world, has been misused by few people in spreading false, bogus, misleading and #confusingnews, without realizing the repercussions. One cannot overrule that some of this #falsenews is the outcome of a vicious mind that is doing it intentionally, maliciously and knowingly to create panic and frustration in people.
However, it is also possible that some of the false news may not have been posted with mala fide intentions, but is the result of ill-informed people, who have not been able to sift the wheat from the chaff. It is possibly the work of people who believe ignorance is bliss and they are smart to create news and send incorrect information for the fun of it. Such #pranksters should know that they are liable under the law for spreading fake news and incorrect information.
It is time that people know that the law does not permit spreading of such false news and knowledge regarding the Pandemic. People indulging in such nefarious activities must know that they are liable under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 as amended thereof (IPC) that makes them accountable and they can be prosecuted against. Under the #IPC, such persons can be prosecuted and can be imprisoned for up to three years or with fine or with both.
The Pandemic falls under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 as amended thereof. This means that any person spreading false news, rumors or knowledge regarding the Pandemic, is liable to be punished under the law and can be #prosecuted for up to 6 months of #imprisonment or #fine, which can run into thousands of Rupees.
Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act 2005 as amended thereof, also makes such persons liable to be proceeded under the law. This Section states that any person who makes or circulates a #falsealarm or warning about a disaster or its severity or magnitude, thereby, causing panic amongst public, shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or with fine.
In recent times, the Cyber Crime Cell has been picking up people who have been using the social media to spread false news or spread of untested treatments and diets regarding the Pandemic. Even news agencies including the big names have been reprimanded for spreading false and unverified news regarding Covid19.
This Article has been written in public interest with a request to fellow Indians to show the same level of national pride and patriotism that has been shown in dutifully following the Lockdown by abstaining from spreading false news and rumors that can increase the panic and frustration in the mind of the masses.
There is no doubt that the Lockdown has been difficult, yet the unity of Indians has made the Lockdown a huge success and has ensured that Covid19 does not become a national #disaster in our country. The Author implores fellow Indians to abstain from spreading false news and rumors in #nationalinterest.
Sushila Ram Varma
Chief Legal Consultant
The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services