Home Politics Controversy erupts over Kerala Police Act Amendment: All you need to know | India News – Times of India

Controversy erupts over Kerala Police Act Amendment: All you need to know | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Controversy erupted a day after Kerala governor signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance envisaged by the Left government in the state to prevent cyber attacks against women and children which the opposition had alleged would curtail freedom of expression.
On Saturday, Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance.
What is the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance?
The state cabinet, last month, had decided to give more teeth to the Police Act by recommending the addition of Section 118-A.
It stipulates either imprisonment for up to five 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.
The amendment was introduced in the wake of rising crime graph, fake propaganda and hate speech on social media since the outbreak of Covid-19. The LDF government had said since cyber attacks are a major threat to private life, it has been decided to amend the Police Act as the existing legal provisions were inadequate to fight such crimes.
It said while the Supreme Court had repealed section 66-A of the IT Act and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act on the grounds that these were against freedom of expression, the Centre has not introduced any other legal framework.
The controversy
The amended act landed in controversy soon after it was signed by Khan. The opposition alleged that it would give more power to the police and can be an instrument in suppressing freedom of the press.
The state government, however, rejected the opposition’s claim, saying that the decision had been taken based on factors such as abuse of social media to tarnish the image of individuals.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that it will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism and apprehensions to the contrary are unfounded.
“The State Government was repeatedly receiving complaints against the wide misuse of social media, especially by certain online channels. Even prominent public and cultural figures had made such complaints. They have brought to the notice of the Government instances where inhuman and vile cyber attacks were carried out by some in the guise of journalism and how it even harmed the family lives of many. It has often turned into targeted attacks using untruths and even sleazy content. Many families are bearing the consequences of such attacks,” said Kerala CM.
Kerala Director General of Police (DGP) Lokanath Behera assured that a special Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be prepared before taking action on the amendment to the Kerala Police Act.
“A special Standard Operating Procedure will be prepared before taking action on the amendment to the Kerala Police Act. The SOP will be prepared in consultation with legal experts. This is to ensure that ordinance won’t be misused in any way,” said Kerala DGP in a statement.
BJP state President K Surendran said that the amended act is an attempt to curb the freedom of expression of the people and alleged that there was an “undeclared state of emergency” in the state.
“When the Supreme Court took a stand against such a law in 2015, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan praised it and made it a political campaign. The same Pinarayi is trying to control social media and mainstream media by bringing this draconian act,” he said.
Senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram expressed shocked over the signing of the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance, which the Congress-led opposition says is aimed at muzzling media.
“Shocked by the law made by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala making a so-called ‘offensive’ post on social media punishable by 5 years in prison,” Chidambaram tweeted.
BJP Kerala leadership alleged that it is a covert move to thwart even political opposition.
“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.
(With inputs from agencies)



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