Last month, the Kerala government amended a new ordinance to the Kerala Police Act, 2011, the Section 118 (A).
In brevity, this new Section would empower the State police to take legal action against anyone who posts abusive or defamatory content on online channels, like social media.
However, the State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his party faced strong criticism from journalists, civil rights activists and opposition parties, alleging that such a law would kill the freedom of speech.
On Saturday, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan gave his approval and signed the ordinance to amend the draconian law. However, due to the extreme backlash received by the CM regarding the new law, the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government in the State were forced to put a hold on the controversial new amendment, on Monday.
Let’s get into details.
What is Section 118-A of Kerala Police Act?
The CPI(M) led LDF government in Kerala, recently made some revisions to the Kerala Police Act, 2011.
As per the recommended addition of the new Section 118-A, any person who produces, publishes or sends any information which is of defamatory or offensive nature, or shall contribute to offend or threaten another person, through any means of communication (like social media), will charged either with a fine of utpo Rs 10,000, or about 5 years of imprisonment, or both.
The LDF government clarifies that such an action is taken in response to the increasing crime graph on social media platforms.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in fake propaganda and hate comments towards women, children and family, states the Kerala government.
Thus, in order to keep a check on such violent activities on social media platforms, the new Section 118-A was laid out to be amended in the Police Act.
Strong Backlash and Criticism Received by Kerala Govt
Ever since the Kerala state govt has declared to add the new Section in the Police Act, there has been a wide condemnation of the same, stating that it will curtail freedom of speech.
The LDF-led government faced strong criticism from opposition parties, journalists and civil rights activists for encouraging a law which could potentially give more power to the police and endanger freedom of speech.
A Kerala-based advocate, Anoop Kumaran says, “The government claims that Section 118(A) is meant to protect people, particularly women, from social media abuse. But in reality, the new law would be used by the authorities and government against those who criticize them.”
Kerala CM Puts a Hold on Section 118-A
Stung by widespread detestment of the new law, the State government decided to not implement the ordinance for the time being.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan said various quarters had aired skepticism about the recent revision to the Kerala Police Act, 2011.
Alternatively, the government has decided to place the controversial amendment for debate and discussion in the Legislative Assembly before implementing it.
This was decided and announced after CM Vijayan had a conference discussion with the members of the CPI(M) State secretariat and the LDF.