No, there isn’t any restriction on citizens to share news or updates about the situation arsising out of coronavirus pandemic as long as it is based on facts.
As per the Disaster Management Act, there is no provision that mentions the claims being made in the viral message.
A viral message on social media claims that the Disaster Management Act is going to be implemented from “tonight 12 (midnight) onwards”. Citing the Act, the message claims that no citizen apart from a government department will be allowed to post any update or share any message related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It is a punishable offence so admins are requested to inform their group members, the message reads.
With the message, a video of a police officer is attached who can be heard saying that if a person posts anything offensive, then the group admin will be responsible and will also face legal action.
The central government on March 24, the day when the 21-day lockdown was announced, had stated that the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was being invoked to deal with Covid-19. See the copy of order here.
As per the act, there is no such provision which says that apart from government departments, no other citizen is allowed to update or share news related to a disaster.
The Supreme Court also passed an order on March 31, that Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act can be used to punish those who spread false information. Section 54 says that sharing any update or forward whether on WhatsApp or any other social media platform, which is “false”, is a criminal offence.
It is clear that there is no such restriction on citizens to share any news or updates about the coronavirus situation, as long as it is not false information.
If a citizen posts any message about the pandemic, it will allegedly be a punishable offence.
The message reads, “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. (sic)”
The message is being widely shared on Twitter and Facebook with the same claim.
Some social media users are also circulating the viral message along with an article published in Live Law with the headline: “Centre Seeks SC Direction That No Media Should Publish COVID-19 News Without First Ascertaining Facts With Govt.”
What is Disaster Management Act? Terms you should know in time of Covid-19
The Disaster Management Act 2005
The stated object and purpose of the DM Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more. In the popular imagination, a disaster is usually associated with a natural calamity such as a cyclone or an earthquake. Even the definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the Disaster Management Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes…”. To address the current epidemic outbreak, the Central government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation” .
The Epidemic Diseases Act
Under this law, the Central government as well as state government, have the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of a “dangerous epidemic disease”.
An example of this would be the order on March 16 under the Delhi Epidemics Diseases, Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, whereby the Delhi government has restricted gatherings with groups of more than 50 persons till March 31.
What is a lockdown?
A lockdown is an emergency protocol that prevents people from leaving a given area. A full lockdown will mean you must stay where you are and not exit or enter a building or the given area.
This scenario usually allows for essential supplies. All non-essential activities remain shut for the entire period.
In India, the restrictions on movement and services have been enforced by state government, after advisories from the Centre. These restrictions derive their legal basis from the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
What does the coronavirus lockdown mean for Indian citizens?
We are making efforts that there is no difficulty in daily life. We are taking all steps to ensure continuous essential supplies, Modi has said.
— Under the coronavirus lockdown, essential supplies and grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will be open for public. All non-essential activities remain shut for the entire period.
— Essential activities include: Buying groceries and medical supplies. Visit to the doctor in case of medical emergencies will be permitted.
— Private and government offices will be shut
— Religious institutions, schools, colleges will not be allowed to function.
— Hospitals will be open
What is Section 144?
Section 144 of the Indian penal code states that a gathering of four or more people is prohibited in the concerned area. If a gathering of four or more people is found, then every member of the group can be charged for engaging a riot.
Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or to control the danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
What is a curfew?
A curfew is an order specifying a time during which certain regulations apply. Typically it refers to the time when individuals are required to return to and stay in their homes.
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