A section of the media gives communal colour to news, bringing a bad name to the country, the Supreme Court rued on Thursday, expressing serious concern over fake news on social media, including web portals and YouTube, which listen only to “the powerful voices” and not judges and institutions.
The strong observations of the bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana came while hearing a batch of petitions, including the one filed by Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, seeking directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of “fake news” related to last year’s religious gathering at Nizamuddin Markaz and take strict action against those responsible for it.
“The problem is, everything in this country is shown with a communal angle by a section of media. The country is going to get a bad name ultimately,” said the bench, adding, “Did you (the Centre) ever attempt to regulate these private channels?”
The bench also agreed to hear after six weeks the Centre’s plea seeking transfer of petitions to the apex court that are pending in High Courts against the validity of new Information Technology Rules, which aim to regulate online content.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said, “Not only communal but also planted news” is there and the IT Rules had been framed to regulate content online, including web portals.
The social media listens only to “the powerful voices” and several things are written against judges, institutions without any accountability, said the bench, which also comprised Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna.
Speaking for the bench, CJI Ramana said, “I have not come across where these social media, Twitter and Facebook, respond to common people. They never respond. There is no accountability. About the institutions, they have written badly and they do not respond and say that this is their right. They only worry about powerful men and not judges, institutions or common man. That is what we have seen. This is our experience.”
He further said: “There is no control over fake news and slandering in web portals and YouTube channels. If you go to YouTube, you will find how fake news is freely circulated and anyone can start a channel on YouTube.”
The top court permitted Jamiat to amend its petition and serve it within four weeks to the Centre through the Solicitor General, who may file the response in two weeks thereafter. (PTI)