SC lashes out at web portals, social media, channels for fake news

Expressing its displeasure and concern over the way a section of web portals, social networking sites and channels run fake news and harm reputations in absence of a regulatory mechanism, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that they only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability.
The Supreme Court bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana observed, “I don’t know, why everything is given communal angle. They (these social networking sites) only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability.”

The CJI Ramana also observed, “These social media sites and channels even don’t respond to us. They say we are not responsible. Institutions, judges, maligned on social media.”
The Supreme Court bench was hearing a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama I Hind and the Peace Party seeking appropriate direction to stop certain media sections from allegedly spreading fake news while linking the spread of COVID-19 with the Nizamuddin Markaz event in 2020.

The Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, senior lawyer appearing for the Union of India (UoI), told the Supreme Court that “please grant me two weeks we will file something”.
To this, the CJI said, “you have taken four adjournments to file affidavit Mr Mehta.”

“Please grant me time for 2 weeks. We need to file a document,” Mehta said.
The Mehta said that the balance is between freedom of the press and the right of citizens to get correct information. We have tried to make sure that no untoward information/news is broadcast. Rules have been framed for broadcasters and web portals.

The CJI observed many web portals are not under the control of anybody. If you go to Youtube, you can see there is much fake news and false information being circulated. Anyone can start doing it. You have regulatory mechanisms as far as papers and TV are concerned, but “are you suggesting that there is no regulatory mechanism?” the CJI asked Mehta.

The CJI observed, what is the use of powerful debates if only people who are powerful are allowed to get their matters redressed and the common man’s grievance is not addressed?
Mehta pleaded for listing the matter related to IT rules next week. Mehta said that these rules have been challenged in various High Courts, and orders are being passed.
The CJI said, as far as the transfer plea is concerned, let the same be listed along with this petition, on the next date.

The Supreme Court said it will hear all the petitions challenging Cable Rules amendment 2021 and Digital media IT rules 2021, after six weeks.