The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday castigated the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra for an order issued by the Mumbai Police against disseminating fake news, rumours and misinformation in connection with the coronavirus outbreak.

The saffron party claimed the order was similar to the Emergency and blamed Congress, a ruling coalition partner. “Emergency is in DNA of Congress and its allies,” Mumbai BJP spokesperson Suresh Nakhua tweeted. “Gag order issued in Maharashtra.”

Earlier in the day, the Mumbai Police advised former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya not to circulate unverified content on social media. Somaiya had shared a video of a lady constable collapsing on the road, claiming that she is suffering from the coronavirus. “We appreciate your concern sir, but this is an old video from 16.05.2020 and is not related to Covid-19,” the police tweeted. “The lady corona warrior is absolutely healthy and she never tested positive for Covid-19. We request all citizens to not circulate unverified content.”

Somaiya deleted the tweet, but questioned why nobody helped the constable at the time of the incident. “I challenge Thackeray sarkar [government] to take action against me,” he added. “Video showing lady police constable collapsed on road, on duty is factual. Why five police constable did not help her? Why ambulance arrived so late? Why police disclosed her name to media saying she had fight with her parents?”

In May 23 order, the police said fake news has caused panic and confusion among people, adding that rumours can also incite mistrust towards government functionaries trying to control the pandemic.

“It has been observed that there is widespread dissemination of fake news, incorrect information, misinformation and other such objectionable content in the form of messages, videos [both edited and self-created], images or memes [both edited and self-created], audio clips and other such forms of communication over internet messaging and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram etc,” the order added.

Those who are “admins” of the groups will be held responsible for such activities, it said. They also have to report any such malicious derogatory or incorrect content posted by a member of the group to the police immediately.

Maharashtra has over 52,000 coronavirus cases – the highest in India. Mumbai has contributed to almost 61% of Maharashtra’s cases and 60% of its fatalities.

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