An order by the Mumbai Police "to control the spread of fake news and hate messages during the COVID-19 pandemic" has drawn sharp political reactions from the BJP. The opposition BJP is calling the order similar to the emergency. A Mumbai BJP spokesperson describes the police order, a "gag order". Suresh Nakhua of the BJP tweeted, "Emergency is in DNA of Congress and its allies. Gag order issued in Maharashtra."
The order reads, "...it has been observed that there is widespread dissemination of fake news, incorrect information, misinformation and other such objectionable content in the form of messages, videos (both edited and self-created), images or memes (both edited and self-created), audio clips and other such forms of communication over internet messaging and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram etc. Such type of content has been found to have caused panic, confusion amongst general public, inciting mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken to control the Covid19 pandemic and also to have created animosity towards various communities."
The police say in the order that such activities can create a law and order situation, and danger to human health and safety and disturbance of public tranquillity and have passed prohibitory orders.
The police order prohibits dissemination of information through various messaging and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook TikTok Instagram that are found to be incorrect and distorting facts, or is derogatory and discriminatory to a particular community, or is causing panic and confusion among general public, or inciting mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken in order to prevent the spread of Covid19 virus and thereby causing danger to human health and safety or disturbance of public tranquillity.
The order makes "admins" of groups responsible for these acts and makes it the personal responsibility "of all persons designated as admin" to report any such malicious derogatory or incorrect content posted by a member of the group to the police immediately.
Earlier, the Mumbai Police had advised former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya not to circulate unverified content. In the tweet, the Mumbai Police said, "We appreciate your concern sir, but this is an old video from 16.05.2020 and is not related to COVID-19. The lady corona warrior is absolutely healthy & she never tested positive for COVID-19. We request all citizens to not circulate unverified content." Kirit Somaiya has since deleted the tweet flagged by the Mumbai Police.