The Kerala Government has put on hold the implementation of its controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act (Act) for now. The amendment, which was brought about through an ordinance, inserted Section 118A to the Act, criminalising the communication of abusive, defamatory and intimidating speech.
In a statement released on Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan cited public concern over the provision as a reason for the stalling the implementation of the ordinance. The move comes days after the Governor of Kerala signed off on the ordinance on Saturday.
Intimating that the provision will be subject to detailed deliberation in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, the Chief Minister stated that the amendment will not be implemented for the time being.
He also clarified that the provision was never meant to curb free speech.
The newly inserted Section 118A had made any expression, publication or dissemination of threatening, abusive, defamatory or humiliating content made through any mode of communication punishable if the person does it knowing it to be false and damaging to reputation or mind of another person.
A person, if convicted for the offence, can be punished with imprisonment of upto 3 years or fine of Rs. 10,000 or both.
The provisions reads as follows:
"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."
The ordinance was promptly challenged before the Kerala High Court by BJP and UDF leaders. The High Court had agreed to hear the matter tomorrow.