Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said that the decision to amend the state's Police Act was not to curtail freedom of expression. The statement comes as there are rising concerns about the state governmentâ€™s decision to amend the Police Act in a bid to prevent cyber attacks against women and children. The decision had been taken based on factors such as abuse of social media to tarnish the image of individuals, CM said as some quarters, including the opposition Congress, expressed concern that the proposed provision could have an adverse impact on freedom of expression.
"There is no need for any misplaced concern in this matter. We all can see a lot of abuse of social media to tarnish and assault individuals. This law is not to curtail the freedom of expression. But to control the cyber assault. Even the media persons have asked for a law. The step is based on all these factors", he said during a press meet on Thursday.
The state cabinet had on Wednesday decided to amend Act by recommending the addition of Section 118-A. It 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.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said there was a concern that in the guise of fighting cyber crimes, the state government might exploit the amended section to arrest journalists who write reports critical of it. There are enough provisions in the present police law and police need to implement them, he said in a statement.
Cyber and legal experts have also cautioned that the law may not even hold up when challenged in court.
Meanwhile, welcoming the government decision, state Women's Commission chairperson M C Josephine said the new law will rein in the cyber bullies.
â€śThe proposed new law will ensure stringent action against those engaged in cyber attack through social media,â€ť she said adding it was the women who faced the brunt of such acts and these days the complaints were rising.
The Supreme Court decision to repeal Section 66-A of the IT Act 2000 and Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 on the grounds that these were against freedom of expression, has resulted in a rise in cases of cyber attack, Josephine maintained.