The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala brought out the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance to prevent cyber attacks against women and children.
The state Cabinet giving more powers to the Police Act recommends addition of Section 118-A of 2011.
What does the new Act state
‘5 year jail term for offensive posts’
The Act stipulates either imprisonment for up to 5 years or a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or both to those who produce, publish or disseminate content through any means of communication with an intention to intimidate, insult or defame any person through social media.
State Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has signed and approved the Police Act amendment ordinance.
What is punished under the Kerala Police Act amendment Ordinance
- Threatening, abusive, defamatory content
- Intimidation of any person
- Expression, Publication or dissemination of defaming content through any means of communication including social media
What does the wording of the Ordinance state
- The Act would cover social media, mass media, print, visual media, posters & billboards
Congress-led Opposition says Ordinance is aimed at muzzling media
The Ordinance has triggered widespread row in the southern state. The Opposition alleges the Act would give more power to the police and curtail freedom of expression. Critics say Section 118 is enough to control abuse on social media.
BJP says it is a covert move
It is an attempt to stem the rising public sentiment against the state government. The government, which is already abusing the police, is using the police as a tool of repression. Pinarayi was persuaded to bring 118 (A) as protests against the government were annoying the government. The new law is a sham to prevent violence against women," Surendran said.
He also said the government, which does not even use the existing law to prevent violence against women, is adopting a planned policy to deal with opponents during elections.
CM rejects Opposition’s charges
The charge of the Opposition parties has been rejected by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying the decision had been taken based on factors such as abuse of social media to tarnish the image of individuals. Rejecting the concerns further, the chief minister said the Act would not be used against any news media.
State Govt lists out the following reasons for bringing the Act
- Rising crime graph
- Fake propaganda
- Hate speech on social media since the outbreak of COVID-19
- Cyber attacks posing a major threat to private life
- Existing laws inadequate to fight such crimes
- State’s LDF Govt says Centre has not introduced any other legal framework after the Supreme Court had repealed section 66-A of the IT Act and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act on the grounds that these were against freedom of expression
What is Section 118(d) of the Act struck down by the Supreme Court
- Anyone who annoys any person in an indecent manner with his/her statements/comments/telephone calls/messages/mails or by any other similar means shall, on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or with fine not exceeding Rs 10000 rupees or with both.
Why the SC termed Section 118(d) as unconstitutional
The Supreme Court found that Section 118(d) violated Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, said the offences covered under this Section suffered from vagueness.