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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Kerala to bring in ordinance to withdraw social media legislation

The amendment had triggered protests from various quarters and left the CPM central leadership red-faced.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | November 25, 2020 1:38:54 am
As Pinarayi Vijayan campaigns online, Opposition says he ‘ran away due to scandals’Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (File)

The Kerala government on Tuesday decided to bring an ordinance to withdraw the controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act mandating a jail term for any “offensive” social media post.

The amendment had triggered protests from various quarters and left the CPM central leadership red-faced.

On Friday, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan approved the ordinance incorporating the new section of 118(A). The government had envisaged punishment up to a five-year jail term, but the Governor reduced it to three years. The government, however, announced on Monday that it would not go ahead with implementing the amendment.

As the protests continued and the Opposition questioned the intention behind freezing the amendment, the government was left with little option but to withdraw it.

After a meeting Tuesday, Chief Minister Vijayan said the cabinet had decided to recommend the Governor to issue an ordinance to withdraw the earlier one incorporating section 118 (A) in the Act. The new ordinance would be brought as Kerala Police (Amendment) Withdrawing Ordinance, 2020.

He said the amendment was brought in against the backdrop of increasing instances of social media abuse against women and mounting protest from civil society against such harassment. The amendment was aimed at preventing circulation of fake and defamatory news, he said.

However, various quarters of society raised concerns and the government considered the opinion that the amendment would give excessive power to police and chances of misuse of the new law are high, he said.

Vijayan said that in this issue too, the government is sticking to its approach to lend ears to the opinions emerging from society. As concerns still linger about the amendment, the government is of the opinion that it is suitable to withdraw the ordinance, he said.

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