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.
As reported by LiveLaw, 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.
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.
It is feared that the amendment could have a chilling effect on free speech giving more power to the police and restricting freedom of the press. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has claimed the decision was guided by growing abuse on social media targeting individuals.
The Kerala government had also claimed a rise in crimes, fake propaganda and hate speech on social media since the outbreak of Covid-19, and said the existing legal provisions were inadequate to fight them. It had argued that while the Supreme Court had repealed Section 118 (D) of the Kerala Police Act as well as Section 66-A of the IT Act, the Centre had not introduced any other legal framework to replace them.