Attempt To Crush Freedom Of Expression, Crushed!

What is happening in Kerala State with an ordinance, is a threat to mainstream media as well as the so called “uncontrolled superpower social media”. Kerala  Chief Minister is responsible for the amendment (118A) to the Police Act to replace Article 66A of the IT Act.

May be it is a dubious attempt to prevent questioning many of the fraud and illicit business run by the high level bureaucrats at the state capital.

 The amendment defines “punishment for making, expressing, publishing or disseminating anything that is threatening, insulting, insulting or defamatory.” The basis for the critique is that the amendment empowers the police to file cases against anyone as it can be interpreted in any way. Mr Pinaray Vijayan said his government had “repeatedly received complaints against the misuse of social media, especially by certain online channels”.

Few days back, the Kerala Government has promulgated an ordinance, which, it says, will enable the police to tackle social media abuse effectively. However, the wording of the law appears to give the police a broad mandate over all content, not limited to social media. This has triggered protests not only from the opposition, 

Earlier section 118D was quashed by the Supreme Court on the ground that it was contrary to the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. This coincided with the repeal of 66A of the Information Technology Act in 2015 in the case of the Shreya Shringal v. Union of India. With this, it was suggested that there was a situation where it was not possible to file a case against those who posted insulting posts about individuals or anything else through social media.

Contrary to the above, the new move at Kerala government led by CPM is an attempt to keep the mouths of all media shut, creating restrictions existed during an emergency time.

 The opposition has expressed concern over the amendment to the Kerala Police Act. They say, it gives police an unnecessarily great deal more power and potentially curtails the freedom of the press.

“This will in no way be used against free speech or impartial journalism”, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in the face of an avalanche of criticism against a “draconian” ordinance the opposition alleges could be used to muzzle free speech, target the media and silence critics of the government.

 However, “the measures should not be taken in such a way as to undermine freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The new amendment contains provisions that could be so abusive and counterproductive. The government should look into it and make the necessary corrections”. – Sunil P. Ilayidam wrote on Facebook.

Critics say the state government’s amendment to Section 118A of the Police Act to prevent cyber-attacks is likely to be misused. Critics point out that this poses a greater challenge than what was previously in Section 118D, which the Supreme Court repealed.

 In the boiling situation prevailing in the State, no doubt the whole blame goes to the Chief Minister. But what does he do ?! Didn’t give up everything! Domestic policy is determined by the North. The Ordinance is only a continuation of that. Substitute for 66A of the IT Act repealed by the Supreme Court. Looks like it is a  Liability to the Chief Minister, but Benefit to the Center.

The party will now be aware of the tightening knots. What happened and is going to happen in the administrative center can be anyone’s script. Nothing is different. We have no idea where it all started. It is only clear where it is going.

Therefore, 118A should be changed out of surprise. It will not be easy to withdraw. But there is no other way. What to do first? All the agencies are surrounded. Or so it seems. Who knows what the truth is!..Of course, people’s privacy and personal liberty must be protected.

 The opposition was swift to express its concern, with the Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, the MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, called it “troubling” and pointing out that the ordinance was “so loosely drafted it could also be used against political opponents”.According to Tharoor “ this law can & will be challenged in the courts, because any political attack on social media against a party or “class of persons” (eg “Sanghis”or “libtards”) could attract its provisions. It must be revised to narrow its application to flagrant cases of abuse& threats only”.

On the other hand MP V Muraleedharan says, “ By imposing curbs just on social media and mainstream media, CPM at Kerala proves that they are autocratic and not suited for democracy.”That would have been a warning to Kerala and the CPM.

Off late, due to the opposition even from the LDF, Kerala government is under pressure to delay the implementation of the Act till it is further scrutinized in the Assembly.

(By Dr. Mathew Joys, Las Vegas)

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