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Not an attack on freedom of speech: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on controversial Police Act amendment

The opposition parties had alleged that the amendment to the Kerala Police Act would give more power to the police and also curtail the freedom of the press, the charge which was rejected by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Nov 22, 2020 / 06:07 PM IST
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Image: PTI)
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Image: PTI)

The amendment to the Kerala Police Act "will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism", said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on November 22, addressing the concerns over the ordinance, which, the opposition says, would give more power to the police and also curtail the freedom of the press.

"The new amendment made to the Kerala Police Act will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism. Apprehensions to the contrary are unfounded," a statement from the Chief Minister's Office said.

"Along with ensuring freedom of press, the Government also has the responsibility of upholding a citizen's individual freedom and his/her dignity, as enshrined in the Constitution. The popular idea that one's freedom ends where the other's nose begins needs to be respected. However, there have been instances of this idea being repeatedly violated," the statement said.

The amendment, which 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, has been signed by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.

The opposition parties had alleged that the amendment would give more power to the police and also curtail the freedom of the press, the charge which was rejected by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying the decision had been taken based on factors such as abuse of social media to tarnish the image of individuals.

The state cabinet, last month, had decided to give more teeth to the Police Act by recommending addition of Section118-A.118-A.

Expressing concern over the rising crime graph, fake propaganda and hate speech on social media since the outbreak of COVID-19, the LDF government had said since cyber attacks are a major threat to private life, it has been decided to amend the Police Act as the existing legal provisions were inadequate to fight such crimes.

It said while the Supreme Court had repealed section 66-A of the IT Act and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act on the grounds that these were against freedom of expression, the Centre has not introduced any other legal framework. "In this scenario, the police are unable to deal "In this scenario, the police are unable to deal effectively with crimes committed through social media," the government had said.

--With inputs from PTI
Moneycontrol News
first published: Nov 22, 2020 06:07 pm

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