The Governor of Kerala passed an ordinance which would penalize any acts of intimidation, defamation, or insulting of any person and the punishment for the same is imprisonment of the term up to three years and/or up-to Rs. 10,000/- fine. The ordinance would amend the Kerala Police act and would incorporate Section 118A under which these acts will be governed. This new provision provides for punishment for any acts such as making, expressing, publishing, or disseminating any matter which is threatening, abusive, humiliating, or defamatory in nature. The offenses under this provision are cognizable and bailable.
The Kerala Government stated in the press release dated vide Oct 21, 2020, that since the central government did not introduce any new provisions to replace provisions that were struck down by the Supreme Court they are promulgating this ordinance. The provisions that were struck down by the Supreme Court are Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act and Section 118(A) of the Kerala Police Act. These provisions were deemed to be replaced by the Central Government since there exists a lacuna in this area of law the state Government of Kerala decided to amend this act. This amendment is to improve the present condition of the act which is not fit to deal with the increasing social media crimes. The state government pointed out that the present law is insufficient to deal with such crimes, especially after the apex court deemed the invalid and struck them down.
This new provision has been subjected to a wide range of criticism from activists and political parties, saying that this would hamper the freedom of free speech. Section 118(d) of the Kerala Police act was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Shreya Singal Case. It was observed by the Apex court of the country that this provision which covers the offense of causing annoyance in an indecent manner is vague and is unconstitutional as it violated the fundamental right granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the State Government of Kerala in the light growing number of crimes through social media, especially against women, promulgated this ordinance.