5-year jail term for ‘offensive’ post: Kerala’s chilling law


Written by Shaju Philip
| Thiruvananthapuram |

Nov. 22, 2020, 4:47 a.m.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment Order. (Photo file)

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has given his approval to a draconian LDF government ordinance amending Kerala’s Police Act which provides for prison sentences for any social media or cyber publication deemed “offensive” or threatening.

Khan’s office confirmed on Saturday that he had signed the ordinance that incorporates a new section, 118 (A), into Kerala’s police law. As a result, anyone who creates or sends information that is offensive or intended to offend or threaten another person, by any means of communication, is liable to imprisonment for five years or a fine of Rs 10,000 or so. of them.

It is feared that the amendment could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression by giving more power to the police and restricting freedom of the press. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision was guided by growing social media abuse targeting individuals.

Kerala-based lawyer Anoop Kumaran, who moved the Supreme Court in 2015 against another section, 118 (D) of the law, said he would move the High Court against the order. “The government says section 118 (A) is about protecting people, especially women, from abuse on social media. But in reality, the new law would be used by the authorities and the government against those who criticize them, ”he said.

By repealing Section 118 (D) of the Kerala Police Act, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for violating the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

An official statement last month announcing the Cabinet’s recommendation to the governor on the ordinance said the Kerala High Court had previously ordered state police to take action against hate campaigns and attacks via social media .

The PMC-led government had also claimed an increase in crime, false propaganda and hate speech on social media since the outbreak of Covid-19, and declared that the existing legal provisions were insufficient to combat them. He had argued that while the Supreme Court had repealed Section 118 (D) of the Kerala Police Act as well as Section 66-A of the Computing Act, the Center had not introduced any other framework. legal to replace them. “In this scenario, the police are unable to deal effectively with crimes committed via social media,” the government said.

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