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Kerala Governor signs controversial police act amendment ordinance

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 22: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance to punish those found guilty of spreading content by any means of communication, including social media, that is said to be derogatory or defamatory.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan

The state cabinet, last month, had decided to give more teeth to the Police Act by recommending 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.

Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance will be reconsidered: Sitaram Yechury

"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 Lokanath Behera.

Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted this morning that he was "shocked" by the new law.

"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," he said.

"This is absolute fascism. Serious allegations including gold smuggling & drug dealing have surfaced against state govt. These were exposed by media. This law has been introduced as part of conspiracy to silence voices against govt," said Mullappally Ramachandran, Kerala Congress Chief.

Expressing concern over the 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 amajor threat to private life, it has been decided to amend thePolice Act as the existing legal provisions were inadequate tofight such crimes.

Explained: What is 118a of the Kerala police act?

It said while the Supreme Court had repealed section 66-A of the IT Act and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act on the grounds that these were against freedom of expression, the Centre has not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.

"In this scenario, the police are unable to deal effectively with crimes committed through social media," the government had said.

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