Published: 16th September 2021
NCRB 2020: Several cases of "fake news" with an intent to create animosity between communities registered in the pandemic year
While Telangana and Tamil Nadu were states with most registered cases, several northeastern states had only one to three cases in 2020
Far more cases of "fake news/rumour" were registered in the country in 2020 as compared to the earlier years, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report — Crime in India 2020. There were 280 cases in 2018, 486 cases in 2019, while it skyrocketed to a whooping 1,527 cases in 2020.
Telangana had the highest number of cases amongst all states with 273 cases registered under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with spread of "rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote, or which is likely to create or promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, feelings of enmity, hatred or illwill between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities".
Right behind Telangana is Tamil Nadu with 188 such cases registered in 2020 followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with 166 and 144 cases respectively. There were a considerable number of cases registered in Maharashtra (132) and West Bengal (115) while Goa (4), Arunachal Pradesh (1), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Odisha (3), Sikkim (3) and Uttarakhand (3) had very small number of cases. There were 30 cases registered in Delhi, 21 in Jammu and Kashmir and while the other Union Territories registered no cases.
The punishment for an offense under Section 505 of the IPC is imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. Several social media users have been pulled up under this law by government authorities for what some may see as controversial posts — in recent times journalists were also among them.
In 2019, prominent journalist Prashant Kanojia was charged under this Sec 505 of the IPC by the UP police for allegedly sharing an objectionable post against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on social media. While it had nothing to do with his journalism, critics look at the government's move as an attack on free press and speech. Earlier this year, even the Manipur police booked a local journalist and another activist under the National Security Act (NSA) and Sec 505 of the IPC over their critical posts on social media after the death of the State BJP President S Tikendra Singh. There were 19 cases registered in Manipur under Section 505 of the IPC in the year 2020. The 2021 World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a French NGO, placed India at 142nd rank out of 180 countries — such abysmal press freedom rankings have been the case for the last few years now.
The Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns that followed resulted in a drop in traditional crimes like theft, robbery, and assault on women and children in 2020, but there was a drastic jump in disobedience to government orders, primarily arising due to violations of COVID-19 norms, official data showed.
According to the NCRB report, a total of 66,01,285 cognisable crimes comprising 42,54,356 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and 23,46,929 Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes were registered in 2020. NCRB has been bringing out the Crime in India report since 1953. It shows an increase of 14,45,127 (28 per cent) in registration of cases over 2019 (51,56,158 cases), while the crime rate registered per lakh population increased from 385.5 in 2019 to 487.8 in 2020.