Defending Kerala's new ordinance against offending someone, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday, said that the new amendment 'will not curb press freedom'. Claiming that the government had the responsibility of protecting individual liberty along with press freedom, Vijayan said the new act won't be against 'impartial media' or 'free speech'. He added that one could criticise 'within limits of Constitution and the legal system'.
"The new amendment to the Kerala Police Act will not in any way be used against free speech or impartial media activity. Anyone is free to make any strong criticism within the limits of the Constitution and the legal system. In addition to media freedom, the government has a responsibility to protect the individual liberty and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution," said Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
On Saturday, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance that incorporates a new Section 118 (A). The amendment to the police act says that if the government finds any media platform including social media producing, publishing, or propagating content that could threaten, insult or harm an individual, they will be punished with a fine of Rs 10,000, imprisonment of five years or both. The LDF government has said that this amendment was done to 'control cyberbullying'. Kerala DGP Lokanath Behera said that a special Standard Operating Procedure will be prepared before taking action on the amendment to ensure the ordinance is not 'misused'.
Reacting to the ordinance, Congress senior leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram expressed his shock and asked if CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury will defend the "atrocious decision". Similarly, Kerala BJP President K Surendran said that the CM was ' trying to control social & mainstream media by bringing this draconian Act'. Incidentally, the CPI-M manifesto for 2019 Lok Sabha polls pledged to repeal Section 499 of the IPC related to defamation, however, this ordinance empowers police to act of 'defamation'.
In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down section 66-A of the IT Act and Section 118(D) of the Kerala Police Act as unconstitutional and had stated that it was against freedom of expression. However, the LDF government of Kerala claims that the Centre has not introduced any other legal framework in place of the act and in such a scenario, the police are "unable to deal effectively with crimes committed through social media". Several rights activists and lawyers are planning to challenge the ordinance.