ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Predicament of the Social Media Ordinance

Using ordinance to protect freedom of expression from foul speech may result in damaging decent communication.

Seen in isolation, the ordinance issued and then withdrawn by the Kerala government introducing Section 118-A of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 seems to be a case of “no harm, no foul.” The proposed amendment, which punished “threatening, abusive, humiliating or defamatory” speech on any mode of communication with imprisonment and fine, earned the opprobrium of internet users across the country and was quite evidently in violation of the freedom of speech and expression protected under the Constitution. It very obviously falls afoul of the standard set by the Supreme Court of India in Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2015) on the acceptable manner of regulation of online speech. The outrage seems to have prompted the Kerala government to rethink and, as of going to press, the chief minister of Kerala has promised that the ordinance will be rescinded and the amended section will not be put into effect.

However, the very fact that the Government of Kerala contemplated, approved and went so far as to issue the ordinance before backing down in the face of massive public outcry should not make citizens complacent about the impact of such a move. There are four main aspects of this move that are a source of concern, irrespective of the fate of the ordinance.

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Updated On : 1st Dec, 2020
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