Kerala CPI(M) bears on over law to curb media misuse

Concerns within Kerala Left-front over new law to curb social media misuse

Representative image/Credit: Stockvault Image

The CPI(M)-led Left-front government in Kerala is facing criticism even from within over alleged attempts to gag the media by introducing an amendment in the Kerala Police Act.

While the state government claimed the amendment was made to curb misuse of social media for insulting others, especially women, but did not specify which social media. It says "any means of communication" in general. Moreover, threatening, insulting and harming the reputation of others would come under the purview of the proposed amendment by including a new Section, 118-A, to the Kerala Police act. Punishment under this Section would extend up to five year imprisonment and fine of Rs. 10,000. Various forum of journalists, human rights activists and opposition parties had earlier flayed the move.

Causing serious embarrassment to the CPI(M)-led front, CPI, the second-largest party in the coalition, on Monday expressed concerns over the move through an editorial on its mouthpiece 'Janayugam'. It said that the concerns raised by the media and human rights activists that the proposed amendments could be misused by the police could not be ruled out and such amendments need to be introduced only after detailed discussions in the society.

The immediate provocation of the government for introducing the new section was the delay in police action on a complaint by women activists against a vlogger for allegedly posting defamatory comments and the women activist manhandling the vlogger accusing of police inaction. The police's justification was the absence of provisions in the law to act against the offence.

The Supreme Court had earlier scrapped section 66-A of IT Act and section 118-D of Kerala Police Act which dealt with the publishing of objectionable contents of social media. Various sensational cases, including an email troll of a palatial house, said to be that of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was registered using those sections.