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Trending: Call for Papers Volume 3 | Issue 2: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]

SPREAD OF FAKE NEWS IN INDIA: AN ANALYSIS IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS ON THE PANDEMIC

– Ankur Mukherjee

Introduction 
Covid-19 likely to be called as the world’s hated word and virus ever which shook down the entire world, nothing comes positive here expect a quarantined life where we can know ourselves better still it’s becoming boring after nearly it’s past 6 months. This panic created on a global scale regarding the outbreak was declared as a pandemic by World Health Organization on 11th March 2020[1]. Here in the Indian scenario the most another important which caused is causing panic among all others is the spread of fake news on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. The reality is often disappointing as this spread fake news through here is not new by the way tons of rumors spread every day and in this crucial time as there is 200 million users in it[2]. More disturbing is the fact that Whatsapp is used in India not only as a messaging platform, but also by political parties to spread political agenda or for the dissemination of false information regarding an opponent political party, as was seen in the 2019 Indian general elections[3].

Social Media and Fake News Propaganda

The nature of fake news which has been spread and is being spread (not only through WhatsApp but also through news channels or even posters and pamphlets), is mostly coupled to effects of the virus, means of its extend, etc.

Some of the fake news spreads have also accredited the spread of the virus in India to select communities such as Muslims, transgender persons, etc[4]. The spread of these has only led to devastating blunder hate incidence and violence in medical care too. Certain videos were given on Facebook and Twitter, which actually showed Muslims spitting on food, supposedly on purpose which were later verified to be false by Facebook’s BOOMlive[5]. A study which is was conducted by Michigan scholars shows a rise in spread of fake news or debunked information as termed as study[6]. Sample study was based on the distinct instances from an archive under maintenance by Tattle Civic Technology. The information which was said to be debunked was were classified into seven types for a better understanding of results including Culture, Doctored Statistics, Cure, Prevention & Treatment, Nature & Environment, Business Environment, Government and Casualty.

Industrial Losses on the Impact of Fake News

The spread of this news saw the poultry industry facing losses to the tune of 1,500-2,000 crore Rupees, while the prices of chicken fell by approximately 55%, with a farmer in Maharashtra reportedly having culled his chicken stock worth 5.8 crore Rupees due to fear of a sharp fall in demand in the foreseeable future[7].

Fake News and Contradiction to Cremate Dead Bodies

The big problem came when the casualty type of debunked information in classification to the dead bodies with respect to cremate them got a denial due to fear of spread of virus. Recently, In Ahmedabad, a forty-six-year-old woman who died of Covid-19 was taken to a cemetery near her residence, when a group of locals denied the burying of her dead body, fearing transmission of the virus, based on false information that dead bodies can transmit the virus.[8] There is a guidance report by WHO on 24th March, 2020, stated that Covid-19 is actually transmitted between people through droplets, close contact and that is not airborne. Further it is also stated on the report that it also emphasized on the dignity of the dead and states that the cultures and traditions and also the family of the deceased are to be respected and should be protected, while also following other guidelines,[9]

Migrant workers and the Fake News

The Supreme Court in an order on the case of Alak Alok Srivastava v. Union of India[10], here it is said that the nationwide lockdown would be extended by 3 months which had created a large number of migrant labourers to attempt to return to their homes, where some of them in their own consent walked a long distance of more than 100 kilometers from their place of work to their homes. Many labourers lost their lives in the process of trying to return in their respective homes and absurdly making it impossible for the court to take this into consideration. The court then further directed the media to ensure and not spread biased news which leads to panic. The Apex court also took into deliberation certain provisions under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and also the Indian Penal Code, 1860(IPC).

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 as the Saviour

The first stipulation taken into deliberation by the Supreme Court was Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (hereinafter DMA) which is one of the chief provisions in the Act that deals with propagation of false information[11]. Section 54[12] of the DMA Act states that whoever makes or circulates a bogus alarm or caution as to the tragedy or its sternness or magnitude, leading to dread, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which possibly will broaden to one year or with fine.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 as the Backbone

The Supreme Court also took into reflection, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter IPC) which states that any person who disobeys an order which has been

promulgated by a public servant whereby he is required to do or abstain from doing something but he disobeys that order[13], is punishable to imprisonment which may extend to one month or a

fine which may extend to two hundred Rupees or both and if such disobedience causes danger to human life or leads to riots, then he will be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year, a fine which may extend to thousand Rupees or both[14].

Another provision which relates to spreading of fake news is Section 505 of the IPC, which is entitled ‘Statements conducing to public mischief’[15]. Section 505(2)[16] states that anyone who makes, publishes or circulates any declaration, rumour or statement with an objective to cause or which is likely to cause, fear or terror to the public, or to any segment of the public shall be punished with detention which may extend to five years and also shall be accountable to fine.

Many citizens lack right of entry to reliable sources of in sequence, which probably is the reason for the increasing dependence on WhatsApp to the fore and/or television news channels. Such addiction clearly increases spread of fake news. Nonetheless the Government of India introduced the ‘ArogyaSetu’ mobile application in array to track infected people and provide in rank regarding measures taken to fight the virus, data security concerns on the claim has induced unwillingness in the middle of many to use it. According to Justice Srikrishna, government’s drive to mandate usage of the application is ‘utterly illegal’[17].

Conclusion 

The main thing is there is sufficiency of laws here is the thing but to really tackle the spread of fake news is concerned. The Apex court has taken into concern the malice of fake news in cases like Tehseen S. Poonwala v. Union of India[18] and Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Terrirory of Jammu & Kashmir[19]. Although these cases were based on different issues, but the bottomline is we need to control, reinstate the need to control the spread of fake news and lets make an aim to stop these biasness and trouble.

[1] World Health Organization, WHO Announces Covid-19 Outbreak A Pandemic (Mar. 12, 2020), http:// www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/news/news/2020/3/whoannounces-covid-19-outbreak-a-pandemic.

[2] Mansoor Iqbal, Whatsapp Revenue And Usage Statistics, BUSINESSOFAPPS.COM , https:// www.businessofapps.com/data/whatsapp-statistics/.

[3] Tariq Ahmed, Government Response to Disinformation on Social Media Platforms: India , LOC.COM(Sept., 2019), https://www.loc.gov/law/help/social-media-disinformation/india.php

[4] Donita Jose, Transgenders shocked by hate posters in Hyderabad amid coronavirus fears, The New Indian Express(Mar.30,2020),https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2020/mar/30/transgendersshocked- by-hate-posters-in-hyderabad-amid-coronavirus-fear-2123284.html.

[5] Joanna Slater &Niha Masih, As the world look for coronavirus scapegoats, Muslims are blamed in India,
WASHINGTON POST, Apr. 23, 2020 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/as-world-looks-forcoronavirus-scapegoats-india-pins-blame-on-muslims/2020/04/22/3cb43430-7f3f-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_

[6] Joyjeet Pal et al., Temporal Patterns in Covid-19 Misinformation in India (2020), http:// joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/temporal-patterns-in-covid-19-misinformation-in-india/. 

[7] Akhileshwari Reddy, The Pandemic is Amplifying India’s Fake News Crisis, The Wire, Apr. 2, 2020, https:// thewire.in/media/medical-fake-news-coronavirus. 

[8] Aditi Chattopadhyay, Fact Check: Can Dead Bodies of Covid-19 Patients Transmit Novel Coronavirus?, Thelogicalindian.com (Mar. 31, 2020),https://thelogicalindian.com/fact-check/dead-body-coronaviruscovid- 19-20387

[9] WHO, Infection Prevention and Control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of Covid-19: Interim guidance (Mar. 24, 2020), https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331538/WHO-COVID-19-lPC_DBMgmt-2020.1-eng.pdf.

[10] Alakh Alok Srivastava v. Union of India, SC 345 (2020).

[11] The Disaster Management Act, 2005 § 54.

[12] The Disaster Management Act, 2005 § 54, https://www.ndmindia.nic.in/images/
The%20Disaster%20Management%20Act,%202005.pdf.

[13] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 §188. 

[14] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 §188, https://indiacode.nic.in/show-data? actid=AC_CEN_5_23_00037_186045_1523266765688&sectionId=45943&sectionno=188&orderno=214. 

[15] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 §505. 

[16] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 §505,https://indiacode.nic.in/show-data? 

[17] Andrew Clarance, Arogya Setu: Why India’s Covid-19 contact tracing app is controversial, 15 May, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52659520.

[18] Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India, 9 SCC 501 (2018).

[19] Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, SCC Online SC 543 (2020).

Image Credits https://images.app.goo.gl/xs62Eyk1oCwko1aa8

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