NEW DELHI — The Indian Supreme Court on Sept. 2 expressed its displeasure and concern over the way a section of web portals, social networking sites, and channels run fake news and harm reputations in the absence of a regulatory mechanism.

The apex court said they only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability.

“I do not know why everything is given a communal angle,” said the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana.

“They (these social networking sites) only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability. These social media sites and channels even don’t respond to us. They say we are not responsible. Institutions, judges, maligned on social media.”

The Supreme Court bench was hearing a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama I Hind and the Peace Party seeking appropriate direction to stop certain media sections from allegedly spreading fake news while linking the spread of Covid-19 with the Nizamuddin Markaz event in 2020.

The Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, the senior lawyer appearing for the Union of India, said to the Supreme Court that “please grant me two weeks. We will file something.”

To this, Ramana said, “you have taken four adjournments to file the affidavit, Mehta.”

“Please grant me time for two weeks. We need to file a document,” Mehta said.

He said that the balance is between freedom of the press and the right of citizens to get correct information.

“We have tried to make sure that no untoward information/news is broadcast. Rules have been framed for broadcasters and web portals,” Mehta said.

The Chief Justice of India observed many web portals are not under the control of anybody.

“If you go to Youtube, you can see much fake news and false information is being circulated,” said Ramana.

“Anyone can start doing it. You have regulatory mechanisms as far as papers and TV are concerned, but “are you suggesting that there is no regulatory mechanism?” the Chief Justice asked Mehta.

Ramana observed the use of influential debates if only powerful people are allowed to get their matters redressed, and the common man’s grievance is not addressed?

Mehta pleaded for listing the matter related to IT rules next week.

He said that these rules have been challenged in various High Courts, and orders are being passed.

As far as the transfer plea is concerned, Ramana said, let the same be listed along with this petition on the next date.

After six weeks, the Supreme Court said it would hear all the petitions challenging Cable Rules amendment 2021 and Digital media IT rules 2021.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Praveen Pramod Tewari

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