Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has signed an ordinance to amend the Kerala Police Act to punish those found guilty of spreading offensive and threatening social media posts.

The amendment incorporates a new section, 118-A, into the Kerala Police Act. The section outlines that any person who creates or sends content that is offensive or intended to offend or threaten another person, through any means of communication, may face five years in prison, a fine of Rs 10,000, or both.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has claimed that the decision was based on the rising incidents of cyber-crime and the abuse on social media. Mr Vijayan said the state had a duty to protect the liberty and dignity of its citizens. He assured critics of the law that no action would be taken against the media or critics who stay “within the limits of the Constitution”.

The ordinance was passed by the Left Democratic Front government. It has been criticised by Congress and BJP members. In a tweet, Congress Member of Parliament Palaniappan Chidambaram called it an ‘atrocious decision’, and said he was ‘shocked by the law.’

While Amit Malviya, Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology cell cheif, said that the new law will ‘kill free speech, threaten press freedom and give more power to the police.’