Can a group admin be punished for #coronavirus related news under Disaster Management Act ?

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A message is viral like a wildfire on WhatsApp panicking people. It made many admins turn mode of the group to ‘Admin posts’ only. It claims that a ‘Disaster Management Act’ has been passes under which admins of WhatsApp groups will be held responsible and punished for any corona virus related messages. The message is viral with slight changes, one is with a link of Livelaw website and another is with a small clip of Police’s press conference.

Version 1 (With Livelaw link)

“Dear All, Mandate for All: 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 Corona virus and it being punishable offence. Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform the groups. Please adhere this strictly.”

 

Version 2 (With police press conference video)

Mandate To All Residents. 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 and it being punishable offence.

Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform the groups.”

Version 3

“Group admin is requested to close group as police can take action against admin & group members vide section 68, 140 & 188 if anyone even by mistake post joke on corona.
Everyone could be in trouble. Hence I draw the attention of group admin to take necessary steps.”

Mandate To All Residents. 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 and it being punishable offence. Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform the groups.#vamshi

Posted by Jamshedpur Truth and Confessions on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Analysis

Although Police from various states and cities are asking citizens not to spread rumors, even PM Modi Ji in his address to nation asked people not to, but such rumors are still viral. This viral message is quite misleading.

Let’s look at it version wise

Version 1 uses a link of report on Livelaw.

Livelaw is a website which is dedicated to law, cases going on.

First of all the content of the article is quite different from the viral message text. While the false message talks about Group admins and citizens, the live law articles talks about the media houses checking up facts with Government before publishing. The headline reads –

“Centre Seeks SC Direction That No Media Should Publish COVID-19 News Without First Ascertaining Facts With Govt.” Source – Livelaw

Secondly they themselves cleared the viral message to be false

A fake news is being widely circulated in social media and Whatsapp groups that apart from government, no other person is allowed to post any update or share any forward related to COVID-19.

This false message is as follows :

“Dear All,

Mandate for All :

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 Corona virus and it being punishable offence.

Group Admins are requested to post the above update and inform the groups.

Please adhere this strictly”

Noticeably, a LiveLaw report is attached out of context along with message, so as to make the fake message seem credible.”

PIB Fact Check

ANI Cleared

Version 2 has a small 26 second clip of a policeman holding a press conference stating the member posting and the admin both will be held responsible.

The video although is right but is 2 years old. July 2018.

In July 2018, Junaid Khan was arrested by Police being admin of a group for objectionable content in Madhya Pradesh

“A student has spent five months in an Indian jail over a WhatsApp message he says he did not send.

Local reports say the 21-year-old man was charged with sedition because of “objectionable” content, although it is not clear what the message said.

Police allege the man was the administrator of the WhatsApp group, when a complaint was filed.

His family argue he was made a “default admin” only after the original administrators had fled the group.” Source: BBC

Although this arrest (admin’s) is still unclear but yes, anyone sending objectionable/controversial material but only when a group members files a complain. No one is monitoring WhatsApp chats/groups

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