HYDERABAD: Persons spreading fake news about COVID-19 may face punishment under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, announced the State government. Also, those suspected of COVID-19 escaping home quarantine may also face action, said State officials.
After instances of people with COVID-19 symptoms escaping home quarantine were reported in neighbouring states, the Telangana government invoked the Disaster Management Act on Saturday. This is the first time the State invoked the Act since it was enacted in 2005.
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The government order (GO) issued by the State on Saturday states, “any attempt to create fear or confusion regarding COVID-19 by propagating fake news shall be dealt with firmly and action will be taken as per section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.”
Section 54 of the Act states that whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.
Officials claimed that fake news can have a negative effect in view of the existing situation and such stringent measures are needed. It may be noted that in 2018, fake news of child kidnapping gangs circulated on social media platforms which lead to violent incidents in different parts of the State. A cross-dresser and a techie from Hyderabad who went to a function in Karnataka’s Bidar district were killed in separate incidents by locals who suspected them to be kidnappers.
Sources say that if any person mandated to isolation, steps out, he or she can also be dealt under Section 51 of the Act. Section 51 of the Act allows the government to take action on any person who obstructs or refuses to comply with any direction given by the government.