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FILE PHOTO: A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/File Photo


By Suchitra Mohanty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A government plan to monitor social media could turn India into a "surveillance state", the Supreme Court was cited as saying on Friday as it asked the government to respond to such worries within two weeks, a lawyer involved in the case said.

The government wants social media users monitored and fake news identified and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in April invited bids from companies to do that.

But a member of parliament challenged the plan, following which a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court began hearing the matter.

"Tracking and regulating social media content will transform us into a surveillance state," one of the three judges observed, according to the petitioner's lawyer, who declined to be identified.

Indian media also reported that the Supreme Court raised concerns about the plan to track social media.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Highlighting the danger of so-called fake news in India, a series of hoaxes posted on social media has led to a spate of lynchings recently.

Facebook Inc's WhatsApp messaging platform on Tuesday published advertisements in Indian newspapers aimed at tackling the spread of misinformation.

(Writing by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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