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What mechanism do you have against fake news, SC asks govt.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain its “mechanism” against fake news and bigotry on air, and to create one if it did not already exist.

Inability on the government’s part may well see the job go to an “outside agency,” the court said.

“Why should we ask private entities like NBSA, etc., when you have the authority? If such an authority does not exist, create one... If you cannot, then we will hand it over to an outside agency,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

Chief Justice Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench, said the court was “disappointed” with the contents of the latest government affidavit, filed by Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare, in the Tablighi Jamaat case. The case is based on petitions, including by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, against the communal colour given by certain sections of the electronic media to the holding of a Tablighi Jamaat event in the National Capital during the lockdown.

The affidavit maintained that media coverage “predominantly struck a balanced and neutral perspective” in the past few months. It explained that as a “matter of journalistic policy, any section of the media may highlight different events, issues and happenings across the world as per their choice.” It was for the viewer to choose from the varied opinions offered by the different media outlets.

Mr. Khare said the petitions in the court contained vague assertions against the media based on “fact-checking news reports”.

Besides, the government had already blocked 743 social media accounts and URLs spreading fake news on COVID-19.

The court rejected the affidavit as inadequate. “We are disappointed with your affidavit... We want to know how you are employing the Cable TV Act. We want to know the quantum of applicability of the Act... What is the legal remedy when there are complaints?” Chief Justice Bobde asked Mr. Mehta.