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Why Kerala Police Act Amendment is such a hot topic?

The amendment of the existing Kerala Police Act with the addition of a new section 118A was a very confusing event. With the ordinance power of the Governor of Kerala on 21 November 2020, a new amendment was approved in this regard. But the question here is why Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had to withdraw it? Here we are going to discuss why the newly added Section 118A has become such a hot topic of discussion recent days.

Let us see what Section 118A is:

The content of Section 118A was that it would be punishable Posting on social media any social media posts or statements that are abusive in nature against any individual or group of people. Whatever the form of communication is , if the interpretetation of the words, statements or photographs used are abusive in form or defamatory in nature an action can be brought down under the purview of the new section. Punishment is defined in the section as imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of Rs. 10,000 or with both.

This is how the provision reads:

Punishment for making, expressing, publishing or disseminating any matter which is threatening, abusive, humiliating or defamatory.- Whoever makes, expresses, publishes or disseminates through any kind of mode of communication, any matter or subject for threatening, abusing, humiliating or defaming a person or class of persons, knowing it to be false and that causes injury to the mind, reputation or property of such person or class of persons or any other person in whom they have interest shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.[1]

Background
The governor issued the ordinance at a time when a lot of people started to share bitter experiences of this type. The enactment of this ordinance was also due to the fact that a lot of such atrocities were being perpetrated against women, especially those with celebrity status. Ordinance has been introduced to curb these situation and to prevent people from making such statements who are doing these activities without revealing their identities .

Problems associated with this new section

Such an amendment or ordinance was brought as a stern action against people for making, expressing, publishing or disseminating any matter which is threatening, abusive, humiliating or defamatory. But later on people started to identify the problem associated herewith i.e., afterwards police officers can charge criminal cases on citizens by giving false interpretations to the communications which they have made through any platforms through the power given to the police to initiate a case on their own.

If this is going to be a problem, citizens may step back to communicate their ideas, opinions and all because of this fear .The new provision is also indirectly going to violate their fundamental rights of the citizens. This would be violative of Article 14, Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution, which are some of the basic fundamental rights of citizens of India guaranteed by the Constitution. The new amendment was similar to Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act which were struck down in Shreya Singhal v/s Union of India [2] by the Supreme Court of India.

Conclusion
The section inherently suffers with vagueness says the public and because of this they opined that there is no Constitutional validity for the amended Act and demanded to withdraw the amendment. Due to the mounting criticisms, the government of kerala decided not to implement the new amendment and the Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement that further steps would be taken after discussing the matter in the state assembly by taking into account the opinions from all sections of the society.

End-Notes:
  1. Sec 118A Kerala Police Act, 2011
  2. AIR 2015 SC 1523

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