Kerala Governor inks ordinance giving more teeth to police to deal with cyber attacks

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The law proposes five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs.10, 000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content against any person through social media.

Kerala Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s ordinance amending the Kerala Police Act giving more power to police to deal with cyber attacks against women and children has got the nod of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.

The ordinance signed by the Governor on Saturday, November 21, contains a new provision, Section 118-A, to the law passed in 2011. It proposes five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs.10, 000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person through social media.

The amendment was mooted in the wake of an assault by a group of women on a blogger broadcast abusive and derogatory comments against one of them in his YouTube channel. The government felt that the absence of an effective law to tackle online vilification would encourage more such abuse.

However, a section of the ruling front and the opposition parties opposed the ordinance saying that it had the potential for misuse by the authorities to curtail the free speech. The Communist Party of India, the second largest constituent of the LDF, felt that the amendment could be used to crack down on freedom of speech and bully critics, journalists and commentators into obedience.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala had said that the amendment would reverse the course on media freedom, muzzle free speech and jeopardise civil liberties. He said the amendment also granted the police untrammelled authority to examine published and broadcast content and register cases even in the absence of a specific complaint.

Journalist unions had also expressed scepticism about the amendment. However, the government has clarified that 118-A targeted slanderous social media and online content, and it did not seek to curb reportage, political satire or commentary, as feared.

Image Credit: The Hindu

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