New Delhi: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday announced that his government would not implement the amendment to the Kerala Police Act that had evoked strong reaction from various quarters, including from within the Left parties and its supporters.
“The amendment evoked varied responses from several corners. Apprehensions were aired by those who support the LDF and profess to defend democracy. In these circumstances, the Government of Kerala will not go ahead with implementing the amendment,” Vijayan wrote in a Facebook post.
The Chief Minister said that a “detailed discussion will be held in the Assembly regarding this, and the future course of action will be decided upon after duly considering the opinions coming up from all quarters.”
Earlier in the day, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had told PTI that the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance will be "reconsidered".
Yechury’s statement came after a political storm broke out over the controversial amendment to the Act.
The Kerala Cabinet, last month, had decided to give more teeth to the Police Act by recommending 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.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government had earlier defended the move, saying that it was intended to reduce cyber crimes against women.
However, when asked on Mondday, Yechury said "The ordinance will be reconsidered."
When asked if "reconsidered" could mean toning down the ordinance, he indicated that it means the ordinance will be scrapped.
The announcement of the ordinance had put both the Left parties in a quandary as it was against the very principles that they stood for, the sources told PTI.
The central leadership of the CPI(M), the leading Constituent of the LDF, was reportedly at odds with the decision, has been exerting pressure on the state leadership to let the ordinance lapse.
CPI general secretary D Raja, too, had said that he was uncomfortable with the ordinance and the party had expressed its opinion on it to the state leadership.
"We have asked our state units to reconsider the ordinance. We have spoken to the CPI(M) leadership and we both concur that the ordinance cannot go forward," Raja told PTI.
Read the English translation of Kerala CM’s full Facebook post below:
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's Statement*
The Kerala Government had decided to amend the Kerala Police Act in an effort to check the widespread malicious campaigns through social media and otherwise, which pose a threat to individual freedom and dignity, which are constitutionally ensured to citizens.
Criticisms and complaints against defamatory, untrue and obscene campaigns have come up from various quarters of the society. Strong protests have emerged from the society on account of the merciless attacks on various sections including women and transgenders. There have been instances in which even the integrity of families has been affected, resulting in suicides. The need for legally tackling this was raised even by the heads of media houses. It was in these circumstances that an amendment to the Kerala Police Act was envisaged.
The amendment evoked varied responses from several corners. Apprehensions were aired by those who support the LDF and profess to defend democracy. In these circumstances, the Government of Kerala will not go ahead with implementing the amendment. A detailed discussion will be held in the Assembly regarding this, and the future course of action will be decided upon after duly considering the opinions coming up from all quarters.
Those who engage in campaigns against personal liberty and the spirit of humanism should cease to do so, on social media and otherwise. The entire society should exercise vigil in this regard.
(with inputs from PTI)