Kerala Governor signs 'controversial' police act amendment ordinance1 min read . Updated: 22 Nov 2020, 04:57 PM IST
- CM Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the amendment to the Kerala Police Act 'will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism'
- However, the opposition alleges this law could be used to muzzle a free press and target critics of the govt
Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan has signed the Kerala Police Act amendment ordinance amid resistance from the opposition parties in the state.
The ordinance punishes those guilty of spreading content by any means, including social media, that is said to be derogatory or defamatory. The law aims to stop bullying, insulting or disgracing individuals through any content and circulating the same through any communication medium. The offenders will be awarded a sentence of five years or penalty of ₹10,000 or both.
Meanwhile, former Union Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday expressed shock over the signing of the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance, which the Congress-led opposition says is aimed at "muzzling" media.
"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," Chidambaram tweeted.
Calling the ordinance "an absolute fascism", Kerala Congress Chief Mullappally Ramachandran said, "Serious allegations including gold smuggling and 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."
'Not against free speech'
Defending the ordinance, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday said that the amendment to the Kerala Police Act "will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism". However, the opposition alleges this law could be used to muzzle a free press and target critics of the government.
The Kerala CM stressed that while the state had a duty to protect individuals' liberty and dignity, no action would be taken against the media or those who criticise the government "within the limits of the Constitution".
"The new amendment made to the Kerala Police Act will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism. Apprehensions to the contrary are unfounded," a statement from the Chief Minister's Office read.
"Along with ensuring freedom of press, the Government also has the responsibility of upholding a citizen's individual freedom and his/her dignity, as enshrined in the Constitution. The popular idea that one's freedom ends where the other's nose begins needs to be respected. However, there have been instances of this idea being repeatedly violated," the statement added.