The Pune Rural Police Monday issued a notification warning people not to spread misinformation or hoaxes about the coronavirus outbreak or even the ongoing lockdown on April Fool’s Day.
The notification has been issued by Sub-Divisional Police Officer for Baramati Narayan Shirgaonkar and is also being taken up in other jurisdictions.
The order reads, “There is a custom of April Fool’s Day when friends and family send each other messages to pull pranks on them or spread hoaxes for fun. However, at present we are going through the coronavirus pandemic and a national lockdown is in force to contain it. We want to warn people not to post any misinformation, rumour or hoax about the outbreak or the lockdown. This may not just lead to confusion in the minds of people about the disease or even mislead them to violate lockdown orders. This can potentially add burden on the government machinery. Those spreading false information or rumours — both sender and the group administrator in the case — will be prosecuted under the Bombay Police Act and Indian Penal Code Section 188 for disobeying order promulgated by a public servant.”
The order also urges WhatsApp group administrators to change the settings to make sure that only they can send messages on the group.
When contacted, Shirgaonkar said, “The district administration has issued orders warning against spreading of misinformation or rumours. We found it pertinent to issue these orders, especially for WhatsApp users, around the time of April Fool’s Day. We need to understand that these are extraordinary times and even a small unintentional act can cause harm. And so in the notification, we have issued instructions to group administrators in particular. We are receiving information that people are responding to this notification. We will be forced to prosecute if people resort to spreading false information about the disease or lockdown on April Fool’s Day or otherwise.”
Officials said a similar notification has also been issued by Satara district police and sub-divisional jurisdictions in some districts.
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