Kerala Police Act amendment: Congress hits out at Guv, demands withdrawal of controversial law

Kerala Police Act amendment: Congress hits out at Guv, demands withdrawal of controversial law
Mullappally Ramachandran

Thiruvananthapuram: Congress Kerala chief Mullappally Ramachandran on Monday criticised Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for giving his assent to the controversial amendment to the Kerala Police Act and said it was unfortunate.

The Congress chief's criticism of the Governor came during a protest that was held in front of the secretariat here against the amendment.

"It was unfortunate that the Governor has given his assent to the amendment which curtails the media freedom. The duty of the Governor is not to simply sign the papers given by the state government...." Ramachandran said. He also urged the Governor to recall it.

However, the CPI(M)-led Left front government on Monday decided to put on hold the controversial amendment as it triggered a political storm across the country with many describing the measure as an assault on freedom of expression and media.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala dubbed as a "hoax" Vijayan's statement that his government was not intending to implement the act and demanded that it be repealed at the earliest.

"The ordinance has become a law when it was signed by the Governor and no one, even the Chief Minister, could say that a law would not be implemented once it comes into force.

"So, Vijayan's statement that the amendment would not be enforced is only to deceive people," the Congress leader alleged in a statement, adding that police can still register cases under the section as long as it remains as a law.

The Congress organised a protest march to the state Secretariat here, which was led by Chennithala, KPCC President, Mullapally Ramachandran and UDF Convenor M M Hassan, among others.

Wearing black masks and holding placards, they marched to the secretariat demanding the immediate withdrawal of the act.

Govt to withdraw new gag law?

Sources in the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) told PTI that either the state Cabinet will recommend to the Governor withdrawal of the ordinance or the Home Ministry will issue a direction to Police not to take any action under it.

Supreme Court lawyer and constitutional expert Kaleeswaram Raj said the only way to undo the effect of an ordinance was to withdraw the same by way of another ordinance.

"Since the ordinance is notified, the law has come into being. The stand of the government that it will not invoke the ordinance does not have any legal foundation... it should be recalled by a method known to law," he told PTI.

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Saturday signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance envisaging addition of Section 118-A to prevent cyber attacks against women and children.

The section 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.

Journalists' body urges govt to withdraw ordinance

The Indian Federation of Working Journalists has appealed to the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala to withdraw its ordinance amending the Police Act there and allegedly curbing the freedom of speech and expression.

IFWJ president K Vikram Rao said the amended Act seriously abridges the freedom of expression and endangers personal liberties.

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