Where the whole world is fighting and taking measures to overcome the pandemic Covid-19, here come the people who are making fake news, irrelevant agendas of religion through memes and social media posts. And circulating fake news like that of migrant workers which is the latest issue taken in the Supreme Court also. Are they liable for circulating such news under Disaster Management Act, 2005 or any other Act?

For example, recently a whatsapp message is trending which claims that sharing of any message on whatsapp related to Coronavirus is illegal and punishable under Disaster Management Act.

So is it a true fact? The answer is no, the Government of India has invoked Section 6 (2) (i) of the Disaster Management Act which restricts the movement of people outside their homes. This was implemented in order to limit the spreading of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Disaster Management Act does not impose any restrictions on people from sharing messages about any certain subject. But sending fake messages about the coronavirus outbreak can land a person in serious trouble. A number of cases have been observed already for people sharing fake news about the outbreak of coronavirus.

The law enforcement agencies have highlighted existing legal provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to deal with menace of fake news:

Section 505(1) of Indian Penal Code, 1860: The punishment for making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which may cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public.

Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or fine or both.

Section 66D of Information Technology Act: Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating.
Punishment: imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005: Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic.

Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.

Also the Supreme Court on 31st March, 2020 asked the Centre to set up a portal within 24 hours for the dissemination of real time information on the coronavirus pandemic to counter the panic being spread through fake news.


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