A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to link social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN, voter ID card or any other identification proof to weed out fake and duplicate accounts and to control fake and paid news which may affect the election process.
The plea, filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, also seeks direction to the central government to declare that the publication of ‘paid news’ and political advertisements during the last 48 hours before polls is a “corrupt practice” under Section 123(4) in The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
“The publication of fake news involves the use of black money, under-reporting of election expenses of political parties and candidates 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,” the plea claimed.
“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 mitigating the instances of fake news,” the petition said.
Upadhyay, through his plea, sought Centre’s direction to take appropriate steps for deactivation of fake, duplicate and ghost social media accounts.
The plea claimed that the hundreds of fake Twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts in the name of eminent peoples and high dignitaries including the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India and the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
“These fake Twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts use the real photos of the constitutional authorities and eminent people,” it added.
The plea stated that fake and paid news prevents the free exercise of the right to vote due to the use of money and muscle power by candidates.
“It affects the rights of the ordinary citizens to get elected and puts them at a great disadvantage due to reduced win-ability factor as an independent. Use of fake and paid news is arbitrary and unfair because it invites and enables people with criminal backgrounds to buy tickets from national and state recognised political parties and contest elections,” the petition claimed.
“A person convicted of rape, extortion, kidnapping and murder can come back into the electoral arena. A person guilty of corruption and terrorism can also become a candidate of national and state recognised parties. Take the case of 2G, CWG and Coalgate. The accused are coming back to the election arena through national or state recognised parties. Would they not affect the elections with money and muscle power, offsetting the valuable freedom to vote without fear or favour?” the plea added.
Upadhyay said that the principle of one man, one vote is based on the freedom to vote in a fair election, which is impossible without weeding out fake accounts.