Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, on Wednesday, signed the ordinance revoking the amendment ordinance, which added Section 118A to the Kerala Police Act. With this, the Kerala government’s earlier ordinance to amend the Kerala Police Act has become null and void. Section 118A had proposed to criminalise ‘offensive’ posts on social media. The cognisable and bailable offence came with imprisonment of up to three years or with fine of Rs 10,000 or with both.
The ordinance was, however, put in abeyance following widespread criticisms. The state Cabinet on Tuesday decided to repeal the existing ordinance with a fresh order. The earlier ordinance for adding Section 118A is reportedly one of the short-lived ordinances so far. It is probably rare that an ordinance is issued to revoke an ordinance signed by the Governor.
The state government on Monday had decided to put the ordinance on abeyance owing to scathing criticisms from various corners. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that many people, including those backing the Left Democratic Front (LDF), had expressed concerns over the ordinance.
The Kerala Police Act was amended by an ordinance on Saturday, November 21. The amendment had added Section 118A to the Act. The amendment was termed draconian, with many pointing out that it was repurposing of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and section 18(d) of the Kerala Police Act, both of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015. Section 66A made posting offensive comments online a crime punishable with imprisonment.
Section 118A prescribes a three-year prison for anyone who publishes anything that is abusing, humiliating or threatening of 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. Section 118A, if passed into law, would have empowered the police to take cognizance of the offence of defamation and similar offences, which were until then non-cognisable.
It invited widespread criticisms, with politicians and activists at the national level, too, slamming it, urging to revoke it. The Editors Guild of India urged Pinarayi Vijayan to withdraw the ordinance, calling it “disturbing”.