A message viral circulating across social media platforms claims that ‘Disaster Management Act (DMA)’ has been implemented from midnight which bars people from posting coronavirus related updates. This would be a punishable offence, asserts the message. DMA was passed in the Parliament in 2005.
आज रात्रि 12 बजे से सम्पूर्ण भारत में आपदा प्रबधन ऐक्ट लागू किया जाता हे। इसके अंतर्गत सरकारी विभाग को छोड़ कर अन्य…
The complete message says, “आज रात्रि १२ बजे से सम्पूर्ण भारत में आपदा प्रबधन ऐक्ट लागू किया जाता है। इसके अंतर्गत सरकारी विभाग को छोड़ कर अन्य किसी भी व्यक्ति को कोरोना से जुड़े संदेश पोस्ट करने पर दंडात्मक कार्यवाही की जाएगी….सभी ग्रुप ऐड्मिन अपने ग्रुप में बताये.”
Viral since 2020
The same message was viral last year with a message in English.
*Tonight 12(midnight) onwards Disaster Management Act has been implemented across the country. According to this…
The complete forward reads, “*Tonight 12(midnight) onwards Disaster Management Act has been implemented across the country. According to this update, apart from the Govt department no other citizen is allowed to post any update or share any forward related to Coronavirus, it being punishable offence.**Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform all in the group.* Stay home ..Stay safe.”
On WhatsApp, it is being forwarded with a link of a Live Law report and requests all ‘group admins’ to close groups for two days or else police can book people under Sections 68, 144 and 188.
A read through the Live Law article itself suggests that the message promotes false information. Here’s what the title of the article says – ‘Centre Seeks SC Direction That No Media Should Publish COVID-19 News Without First Ascertaining Facts With Govt.’
The article talks about the central government seeking a direction from the top court that no media outlets publish any COVID-19 related news “without first ascertaining facts from the mechanism provided by the government.”
“Considering the very nature of the infectious disease which the world is struggling to deal with, any panic reaction by any section of the society based upon such reporting would not only be harmful for such situation but would harm the entire nation. It is, therefore, in the largest interest of justice that when this court has taken cognizance, this court is pleased to issue a direction that no electronic/print media/ web portal or social media shall print/ publish or telecast anything without first ascertaining the true factual position from the separate mechanism provided by the Central government,” read the affidavit, as reported by Live Law.
The complete affidavit in question uploaded by Live Law can be read here. The following excerpt from the affidavit makes a reference to the Disaster Management Act: “It is submitted that such an act of creating panic is also a criminal offence under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. However, an appropriate direction from this Hon’ble Court would protect the country from any potential and inevitable consequence resulting from a false alarm having the potential of creating panic in a section of the society.”
On April 2, the Supreme Court ordered the media to “refer to and publish the official version” about COVID-19 developments is in the spirit of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, reported The Hindu. However, the article further states, “However, the Act, on the other hand, does not contemplate an arrangement whereby the media – print, electronic and social media – first ascertain the “factual position” from the government side before publishing or airing “anything” on COVID-19.” The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had pressed for such a directive from the Supreme Court on March 31 in the “larger interest of justice.”
LIVE LAW CALLS OUT THE MISINFORMATION
Live Law tweeted about the misinformation circulating in its name.
A Fake message with the link of a @LiveLawIndia report is still going viral in WhatsApp Groups
Pls do not share it.
Read this report to know more about it
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 6, 2020
Furthermore, the legal news portal called out the false news in a separate article: “The report has no connection with the fake message. It is clear from a bare perusal of the report that it does not convey the news as sought to be spread through the fake message.”
The fact-check wing of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) also tweeted about the misinformation and additionally provided Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act. It is noteworthy that the Act specifically talks about offences and penalties for promoting false claims and false warnings that lead to panic.
Sec 54 of the Disaster Management Act implemented provides punishment for “FALSE WARNING”/persons circulating false alarm leading to panic. (2/3) pic.twitter.com/Lgl1W0QoUN
— PIB Fact Check (@PIBFactCheck) April 2, 2020
Therefore, the viral message concerning the Disaster Management Act is misleading. The Act does not bar people from posting “anything” about coronavirus. Furthermore, the Live Law article was shared along with the viral message to give credibility to the false claim. It is noteworthy that the centre had invoked the Epidemic Act 1897 and the DMA earlier in March. The step was taken to prevent the spread of the viral infection. Provisions of the legislation allow for the detention of people or any vessel that come from international shores and are seen as a potent threat.