A Special Leave Petition has been filed in the Supreme court by BJP Leader, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenging the order of Delhi High Court, whereby it denied to issue any directions on a PIL, filed by him for Linking of Aadhaar Card, PAN Card and Voter ID Number with Social Media Accounts so that Fake, Ghost and Duplicate Accounts can be weed out.
Mr. Upadhyay mentioned in the Special Leave Petition that while passing the impugned order, the High Court has failed to appreciate that presently total number of twitter handles in India are around 35 million and total number of Facebook accounts are 350 million and experts says that around 10% twitter handles (3.5 million) and 10% Facebook accounts (35 million) are duplicate/ bogus/ fake and it also failed to appreciate that there are hundreds of fake twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts in the name of eminent peoples and high dignitaries including the Hon’ble President of India, Vice President of India, Prime Ministers of India, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India and the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
“These fake twitter handles and Facebook accounts use real photo of constitutional authorities and eminent citizens. Therefore, common man relies upon the messages published from these twitter handles and Facebook accounts. The Delhi High Court also failed to appreciate that fake news is the root cause of many riots including the recent riots in Delhi. Fake accounts are used to promote casteism, communalism, regionalism, linguism, radicalism and separatism, which endangers fraternity unity and national integration. Political parties and candidates use fake social media accounts for self-promotion and image building and to tarnish the image of opponent political parties and contesting candidates, especially during the elections”, said by petitioner in SLP.
He also pointed out that right to know is integral part of Article 19 and exposure to accurate information is a necessity for electors to make an informed choice, but, fake news has tendency to influence this choice in negative manner.
He further added that “Publication of fake news involves use of blackmoney, under-reporting of election expenses and indulging in other kinds of malpractices. The influence of black money also has the potential to result in an imbalanced election between people of different financial statures. Thus, in order to have free and fair elections, which is a basic dictum of democracy, level playing field is paramount and this cannot be achieved without weeding out fake social media accounts”.
He stressed upon the fact that paid news and fake news is a widespread phenomenon during election campaigns. This phenomenon of ‘paid news’ and its equivalent, political advertising being presented as news are issues that cannot be treated separately. The Press Council of India in its report on paid news had recommended that Paid News and Fake News should be declared to be corrupt practice. General public attaches great value to the news reports as distinguished from advertisements and paid news by political parties and candidates. This makes news items a very important source of information concerning political parties and candidates.
Petitioner sincerely believed that weeding out fake news will prove to be extremely useful in addressing the existing issues and challenges.
Before the Delhi High Court, BJP Spokesperson Mr. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the Central Government to take appropriate steps to link social media accounts with AADHAAR or PAN or Voter ID or any other identification proof to weed out fake, duplicate and ghost accounts in order to control fake news & paid news.
The Delhi High Court had held that: –
“To do a small good, by weeding out fake/ ghost/ duplicate accounts, majority of genuine account holder’s data will be at stake. These aspects of the matter will be appreciated by the respondent-Union of India while enacting a policy for the aforesaid purpose or while amending the existing law after appreciating the report given by the Law Commission after due discussion/ deliberations etc.
Thus, no writ and much less a writ of mandamus can be issued by this court for –
- drafting of the policy by the Union of India, nor
- for the amendment in the existing law like Information Technology Act, 2000, or
- any direction can be given to the Union of India, as how to discuss, deliberate and decide upon the report given by the Law Commission, -while exercising our powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India”.
The Delhi High Court had disposed of the petition by saying that the Court therefore expect from the respondent- Union of India that they will take the policy decision in accordance with law, rules, regulations keeping in mind the aforesaid observation of the High Court properly.
Read the petition here;SLP-Fake-Accounts
-India Legal Bureau