After receiving a barrage of criticism, Kerala government has decided not to go ahead with the implementation of a controversial amendment ordinance to the Kerala Police Act which aimed at mandating the jail term for an offensive social media post.
Taking a U-turn by putting the amendment on hold, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “The amendment evoked varied responses from several corners. Apprehensions were aired by those who support the LDF and profess to defend democracy. In these circumstances, the government will not go ahead with implementing the amendment.”
“With the announcement of amendment, different views arose from different quarters. Concerns were raised by those who supported LDF and those who stood for protection of democracy. In this situation, it’s not intended to amend the law,” CM Vijayan added.
He stated that a detailed discussion will be held on the law in Assembly and future course of action will be decided after duly considering opinions of all the quarters.
A Barrage of Criticism over Kerala Police Act Amendment Ordinance
While slamming LDF, Congress and BJP called it a harsh and draconian move to gag the media. Kerala BJP chief K Surendaran termed it “a tool of repression” while Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sought its revision. “This law can and will be challenged in the courts because any political attack on social media against a party or “class of persons” could attract its provisions. It must be revised to narrow its application to flagrant cases of abuse and threats only,” said Shashi Tharoor.
Another opposition leader accused the government of “trying to silence those who criticize them”
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also had a virtual meeting with the party’s politburo members and asked them to reconsider the ordinance. “Keeping in view the widespread criticism and also the party’s position earlier, the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance will be reconsidered,” said Yechury.
The critics also claimed that the amendment will only give more power to police to harass both individuals and journalists, and have had a chilling effect on free speech.
It was contended that there are several laws which already exist to protect against cyber intimidation mentioning Section 66A and Section 67 of Information Technology Act, Section 119(b) of the Kerala Police Act, Section 500, Section 506, and Section 509 of Indian Penal Code.
What is Section 118 (A)?
In the proposed amendment to the Kerala Police Act, the government had decided to introduce Section 118 (A) which mandates punishment for any person who creates or sends any information that is offensive or is intended to offend threaten another person, through any means of communication, with imprisonment of five years or fine of Rs 10,000, or both.
The government claimed that they are introducing the law in view of the serious cyberattacks against women and children on social media. It was also communicated that the law is guided by growing abuse on social media targeting individuals and their personal freedom.
“The new amendment will no way be used against impartial journalism. Apprehensions to the contrary are unfounded. Within the contours of our Constitution and legal framework, everybody has the right to make the strongest criticism. The new amendment will not hamper that freedom in any way,” stated CM Vijayan.