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Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India

SC tells media to stick to official version on virus developments

The order passed was by a division bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the media to publish the official government version about developments with respect to covid-19.

The order passed was by a division bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde.

“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," the bench said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta held that the central government will provide a daily bulletin through all media avenues, including social media forums, to clear the doubts of the people and this process would be made active within 24 hours.

This was observed by the bench and mentioned in the order.

The bench, also comprising Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, held that the apex court does not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but “directs the media to refer and publish the official version about the developments".

This order has been passed to prevent fake news being circulated as it results in panic among citizens.

The covid-19 situation is unprecedented and any deliberate or unintended fake or inaccurate reporting either in electronic, print, social media or web portals can have the serious and inevitable potential of causing panic in large sections of the society, the government said in a status report submitted by the Centre in the apex court.

The court order held that panic can severely affect mental health. Considering the current situation, the court observed that the government is conscious of the importance of mental health and the need to calm down those who are in a state of panic.

The government also submitted that any panic reaction by any section of society based on any fake or inaccurate reporting would harm the entire nation.

The apex court also reiterated in its order regarding Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which provides for punishment to a person who makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to a disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic. Such person shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to one year or with a fine.

The order was passed by the apex court during the hearing of a public interest litigation seeking directions for the government to take urgent steps to help migrant workers amid increasing cases of the novel coronavirus.

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