The Left alliance led-Kerala government on Monday withdrew a controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act, hours after CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the amendment ordinance will be “reconsidered”.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the amendment would not be implemented.
Yechury’s statement comes after a political storm broke out on Sunday over the controversial amendment to the Police Act.
The Kerala 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.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government had defended the move, saying that it is intended to reduce cyber crimes against women.
The central leadership of the CPI(M), at odds with the decision, had been exerting pressure on the state leadership to let the ordinance lapse.
CPI general secretary D Raja said that he was uncomfortable with the ordinance and the party had expressed its opinion on it to the state leadership.
Pinarayi had on Sunday said his government would consider creative suggestions on the controversial amendment to the police act providing for up to five years imprisonment to those making defamatory social media posts as the opposition termed it as an assault on freedom of speech.
Amid widespread concerns that it was a tacit move to silence critics and the media, Vijayan said the government has the responsibility to uphold the freedom of the press as well as that of the citizens.
Seeking to allay fears, he maintained that the amendment would not hamper the freedom to criticise.
“The Government will certainly consider all creative opinions and suggestions that are being aired with regard to this amendment,” Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Saturday signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance brought by the Left front government envisaging addition of Section 118-A to prevent cyber attacks against women and children.
The use of personal likes or dislikes, political or non- political interests and so on to unsettle the peaceful atmosphere of families so as to settle scores arising out of revenge cannot be allowed, the chief minister had asserted.
“Along with ensuring the freedom of press, the government also has the responsibility of upholding a citizens individual freedom and his/her dignity as enshrined in the Constitution. The popular idea that ones freedom ends where the others nose begins needs to be respected,” Vijayan said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala had said the amendment was against the freedom of speech expression which is a constitutional right.
“Amendment to Kerala Police Act shows the intolerance of @vijayanpinarayi government over free speech. This amendment is against the freedom of speech expression which is a constitutional right. The new law is a tacit move to silence critics and media. Nothing more, nothing less,” the senior Congress leader tweeted.
He said the chief minister was trying to scuttle the voice of the Opposition.
“There is an undeclared emergency in the state,” BJP state chief K Surendran said at a press meet in Thrissur, questioning the need for the new provision under the guise of countering cyber attacks against women.
There were existing laws which needed to be implemented properly to counter such crimes, he said.
The opposition parties alleged that the amendment would give more power to the police and also curtail the freedom of the press.
(With PTI inputs)