Kerala govt wanted to snuff out dissent by amending Police Act, DGP's letter is proof

DGP Loknath Behera
DGP Loknath Behera

Thiruvananthapuram: The government had amended the Kerala Police Act four months ago while claiming it was to prevent cyberattacks against women. However, it was aimed at imprisoning those who criticised the government by slapping non-bailable charges, which has been revealed now.

DGP Loknath Behera had sent a letter to the then Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta, seeking an amendment to jail those who criticised the government on social media. The notes on the file reveal that the DGP had insisted that the law should be such that the case should be filed by slapping non-bailable charges.

The government had promulgated the ordinance on the amendment last November while claiming it was to prevent women from being defamed on social media platforms. However, this was withdrawn after a controversy erupted.

The government brought in the amendment after dubbing artiste Bhagyalakshmi led a protest against a man for defaming women on social media. This incident happened in September.

However, the DGP had sent the letter to the Chief Secretary in May itself to amend the law.

The letter sent by the DGP on May 28 stated: "False propaganda via social media platforms has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. False messages are being circulated that malign the image of the government and various departments. To prevent this, the Kerala Police Act has to be amended immediately."

The DGP also noted in the letter what the amendment should be. But it does not mention that the action was to curb crime against women. Instead, it was suggested to amend the law by including a provision for a fine of Rs 10,000 and imprisonment of three years against those who create content that humiliates an individual or that causes injury to the mind or reputation of the person.

Based on this, the law department prepared the draft. In that, the new provision was added as a bailable offence. However, the DGP demanded that this should be revised as five years of imprisonment and a non-bailable offence.

However, the Additional Secretary of the home department crossed out the suggestion and instructed that a bailable offence was sufficient. And subsequently, the government promulgated the ordinance with the cabinet nod. Though the Governor signed the ordinance, it was withdrawn after concerns and protests were raised that the law would be misused by the police.

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