- Increased instances of Rumour mongering
- Laws in India to contain rumours
- Provisions in Section 505
- Standard Operating Procedure
- Privacy and Surveillance Debate
- Challenges in Policing
- Way Forward
Section 505 – Tackling Rumours
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The easier access to Internet and social media in India has made it possible to spread any false information and rumour instantly. There have been many incidents when these rumours stirred violence among the sections of society and have led to need for strictly monitoring the social media handles, the information consumed by the public thereof.
Increased instances of Rumour mongering:
- Delhi police recently got over 3,000 distress calls on a single day from people panicked over riot-related rumours like violence, arson and stone pelting across the national capital.
- Around one-fifth of these calls on the emergency 100 and 112 numbers came from Shaheen Bagh in South East Delhi and nearby areas in South Delhi.
- Panic gripped residents across the national capital on the evening following false rumours of violence but the police denied any incident and appealed for calm.
- Besides the PCR calls, several people from within Delhi as well as outside called up police officials, including officers, directly to verify information about violence breaking out.
- The rumours prompted senior police officers to come on ground and quell the hoax while also taking to social media to control panic.
- The police have been closely monitoring the social media accounts spreading fake news or rumours and action will be taken against them.
Laws in India to contain rumours:
1. Section 153A:
- Section 153A criminalizes and punishes making statements, speeches or acts which have the effect of disturbing public tranquility or law and order by promoting enmity or creating fear or alarm between classes of people on basis of difference in religion, caste, language or place of birth.
2. Section 505:
- Section 505, criminalizes making statements, reports or rumours that encourages members of armed forces or a police officer to refuse to perform his duty, encourages a person to commit offences against the state or disturb public tranquility and incites persons to disturb public tranquility.
- Offences committed under both sections are cognizable which means that an accused can be arrested without a warrant.
Provisions in Section 505:
- Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any
statement, rumor or report-
- with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of India to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or
- with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility; or
- with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community; shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes– Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote, or which is likely to create or promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- Offence under sub-section (2) committed in place of worship, etc.- Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (2) in any place of worship or in an assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
- It does not amount to an offence, within the meaning of this section when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report, has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it in good faith and without any such intent as aforesaid.
Standard Operating Procedure:
1. Tackle the rumours:
- At the time of extra-ordinary conditions like riots, the SOP of the police and enforcement agencies is to contain the spread of ill-information that can inflict harm in the society. The actions may include to identify the fake news peddlers, and monitor the accounts and arrest the culprits in some cases as a deterrence.
2. Reach public:
- The next SOP is to increase the outreach to the public through social media and through audio-visual aids and Television channels to disseminate the correct information relating to safeguard the public from the misinformation.
Privacy and Surveillance Debate:
The privacy and surveillance debate goes hand in hand with the wide outreach of the social media handles with the public. The following questions must be answers prior the surveillance of any person or handle.
- Is there a legitimate state interest?
Given the circumstances and the volatile environment in case of extr5a-ordinary situation like happening in Delhi these days and the riots, the case for a legitimate state interest is self-evident.
- To what extent can they have access using this as a pretext or necessary justification?
The individual rights always come second before the general interest of the public. Hence, in order to contain the rights, the monitoring of the accounts is justified.
- How do you choose to use that information?
Privacy concerns are always legitimate and always warranted, but the extraordinary circumstances hand over the state the legitimate constitutional reason to invoke police power and take necessary steps to contain the false information in general public interest.
Challenges in Policing:
- Technology and Modernization: Lack of technology has been a major issue in effective policing. Though, since few years the police forces are inducting state of the art technology to stand abreast with the criminals.
- Workforce: Shortage of men power and equipments is another challenge in policing. They need to induct skilled officers and intelligentsia that does smart policing year around to nip these ill-faithed protests in the bud.
- Public cooperation with police.
- The duty of the citizens to behave responsibly.
- To understand that the levels of privacy are different over peace time and Extra-ordinary situations like Riots, etc.
- Year around monitoring by the government and law enforcement agencies to control the riots from happening.
- The law enforcement agencies should be Pro-active Not Reactive.
- To maintain balance between privacy and safety and security of citizens.
- Updation of the technology and resources with Police to monitor the situation effectively.
- Need to monitor open source content for larger public safety and law and order.
- Strict punishment for culprits to create deterrence for anti-social elements.
Keeping in mind the volatile situation of the country, the citizens must realize their responsibility to refrain from circulating any such news that can have negative effect to the law and order situation of the country. To contain such riots from happening in the case of extra-ordinary situation the law enforcing agencies are justified for the use of surveillance of the public social media platforms in larger interests. The expectation of privacy goes hand in hand with the clear realization of responsibility.