Kerala withdraws controversial Police Act amendment

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The government will decide any new legislation or amendment to the existing law only after wider consultations

The Kerala government has decided to withdraw the controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act 2011 giving police unlimited powers to deal with humiliating, abusing, threatening, and defaming contents through any mode of communication.

A decision in this regard was taken by the state cabinet on Tuesday, November 24, in the light of widespread protest against the new law, which makes publishing, expressing or disseminating of abusive contents a bailable offence and provides for a punishment of three years.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s office said that the government will send a repeal ordinance to Governor, Arif Mohammed Khan. The government will decide any new legislation or amendment to the existing only after wider consultations.

Earlier, the government assured a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court that the police will not take any adverse action or register any FIR, or take suo moto cognizance of the newly incorporated Section 118A of the Kerala Police Act.

The assurance was given before a Bench led by Chief Justice S. Manikumar when a bunch of writ petitions including the ones by BJP President K. Surendran , RSP leaders Shibu Baby John and N. K. Premachandran and others challenging the constitutional validity of section 118A came up for hearing.

When the petitions were taken up for hearing, Additional Advocate General K.K. Raveendranath submitted that the State government was reconsidering the Ordinance which inserted the new section in the police act. He undertook that till the government took a final decision on the issue, "no adverse action, or registration of FIR on receipt of any complaint or suo motu cognizance will be taken by the police".

The court recorded the submissions of the AAG and adjourned the petitions for further hearing on November 25. The petitioners argued that the new section was against the Supreme Court ruling in the Shreya Singhal case.

The Supreme Court in the Shreya Singhal case had struck down a similar provision(118-D) of the Kerala Police Act along with section 66A(Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services) of IT Act as violative Article 19 (1) (a).

Image Credit: Onmanorma

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