Synopsis: An Ordinance repealing the earlier one adding the contentious Section 118-A of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 has been signed by the Kerala Governor.
On Wednesday, Kerala Governor Mohammad Arif Khan signed off on a new order repealing the previous one that incorporated the contentious Section 118A into the Kerala Police Act, 2011.
Some classes of communication and publications were criminalised by Section 118A. It punishes any speech, publication or distribution of threatening, abusive, defamatory or degrading content created by any mode of communication if the person knows that it is false and harmful to another person’s reputation or mind. A person may be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 years or penalties of Rs. 10,000 or both if convicted of the offence.
Due to the vagueness of its terms and the manner of its implementation, the provision, inserted by an ordinance, was subjected to serious backlash.
After criticism was made by critics and political opponents accusing the state government of seeking to curtail free speech through the law, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Government decided to remove the provision.
Various political figures and anti-law activists have also filed a number of petitions before the Kerala High Court.
In the landmark case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the petitioners challenged the ordinance as vaguely worded, an unreasonable restriction on free speech and expression, and a revival of Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, previously struck down by the Supreme Court.
When the petitions came up for a hearing, the Additional Advocate General told the High Court that under Article 213(2)(b) of the Constitution, the ordinance could be withdrawn at any time by the Governor.
The advocate appearing for the petitioner argued that the governor could not immediately revoke an order, but that before it could be revoked, it would have to be tabled before the Legislative Assembly.
The Chief Justice-led Bench declared that it was not appropriate to consider whether in letter and in spirit, the procedure under Article 213(2)(b) had been followed.
The court continued to record the state’s claim that it was taking action to revoke the controversial ordinance.
Recently, an interim order was issued by the Kerala High Court stating that no adverse remedy, suo motu case or FIR, relating to the controversial ordinance recently implemented by Section 118-A of the Kerala Police Act, 2011, is to be reported before the State Government takes a decision on its implementation.