The Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has reportedly signed an ordinance to incorporate the controversial Section 118 (A) in the Kerala Police Act, making defamation, intimidation and insulting of any person on social media, a punishable offence, with imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both.
Khan's office on Saturday confirmed that he had signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance made by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government under which, any individual who produces, publishes or disseminates content through any means of communication to insult or defame any person through social media, has to face repercussions, reported LiveLaw.
In its official statement, the government stated the ordinance is to address the concerns of increasing incidents of crimes perpetrated through social media platforms. The development comes a month after the Kerala cabinet made the recommendation to the Governor. it further stated that the existing laws are insufficient to deal with such crimes, especially after the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and Section 118(d) of Kerala Police Act, it said.
However, many people have raised concerns about the effects of this chilling law on free speech and freedom of the press, giving more power to the Police and other concerned authorities.
Speaking on the same, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told media that the decision was guided by growing abuse on social media targeting individuals, along with an intention to resolve the issue of fake propaganda, hate speech and so forth.
Advocate Anoop Kumaran, who had moved the Supreme Court in 2015 against another Section, 118(D) of the Act. "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 criticise them," the media quoted Kumaran as saying.
Leader of Indian National Congress, Ramesh Chennithala said that the amendment would reverse the course on media freedom, jeopardise free speech and civil liberties. He also said that the amendment grants more power to the police to register cases even in the absence of a specific complaint, including published and broadcast contents.