Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has put on hold the implementation of the amended Kerala Police Act which stipulates imprisonment upto five years or fine for any social media abuse and offensive cyber post. The decision was taken by the government in view of strong opposition by media, civil society and the opposition parties. The amendment had also caused massive outrage on social media with people terming it as draconian. Following Kerala CM’s latest announcement, people took to social media to hail the efforts made by the civil society, which forced the government to reverse its decision
The announcement of the amendment has led to widespread criticism across the political spectrum. The concerns were raised by those who supported the Left Democratic Front(LDF) and those who stood for the protection of democracy. The state government after such severe backlash does not want to implement the amended act, said Vijayan on Monday.
Only after hearing opinions from all sides and detailed discussion in the Assembly, an action would be taken in this regard, said the chief minister.
On Saturday, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance that incorporated the Section 118-A in the Kerala Police Act. According to which, any individual who creates, disseminates or publishes offensive content intended to insult, intimidate or defame any person through social media will face imprisonment upto five years or a fine of upto Rs 10,000 or both.
The major interventions came from the central leadership of CPI(M), who opposed the amendment along with other Left-parties.The Opposition considered it a draconian rule that could suppress freedom of speech and the freedom of press.
The CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury earlier told news agency PTI that the ordinance would be reconsidered. On the other hand, D Raja, CPI General Secretary said he has spoken to the CPI(M) leadership, and both have concurred to not let the ordinance go forward.
The Opposition leaders in the Assembly also accused the Kerala government of trying to silence the critics and all political protests.
Vijayan, however, has defended the move, saying that amendment is aimed to check misuse of social media and prevent defamatory campaigns.The amendment has also been put forward to reduce cyber crimes against women.
The Chief Minister also said that the government has responsibilities to maintain freedom of press as well as of the citizens. He claimed that the law will not violate free speech and impartial journalism.
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On the other hand, the Kerala police said that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be prepared under supervision of legal experts so that the ordinance is not violated in any manner.