The Information and Broadcasting Ministry Monday announced measures to contain fake news, saying the accreditation of a journalist could be permanently cancelled if the scribe is found generating or propagating fake news.
The guidelines were withdrawn after the prime minister's office intervened, following sharp criticism from the media fraternity and the opposition parties.
"Fascism reaches its nadir as a shaky Modi government, caught in its web of lies, seeks to muzzle all independent voices in media through fallacious rules! Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel asked whether the move was an attempt to prevent reporters from reporting news uncomfortable to the establishment.
He also asked who would determine whether a news was fake and wondered if the rules were to be misused to harass reporters.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee termed the attempt as a brazen and draconian move to curb press freedom and said it showed the government "has lost its way".
"What about fake news spread by a political party on a regular basis?" she asked on Twitter, without naming any party.
Recalling the fight for press freedom during the days of the Emergency in 1970s, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said his party condemned the duplicitous move.
He accused the government of attacking the media in the garb of fake news over news it finds uncomfortable .
"We stand for, and are committed to a free and independent Press, the Left leader tweeted.
"It is like an undeclared emergency. The Government wants to gag the Press. They want the Press to write what the Government wants," said CPI-leader Md Salim.
Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the issue could have been handled in a dignified manner through a law but the attempt undermined democracy .