The police will impose a fine of ₹2,000 on citizens neglectful of wearing masks in public. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said law enforcers will prepare a “data bank” of violators to identify and fine second-time offenders.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Vijayan dismissed Opposition concern that his “over-reliance” on the law enforcement to implement the disease prevention etiquette would lead to police highhandedness and unfair targeting of financially distressed common folk.

He said the police would rely more on consensus and persuasion to enforce the pandemic code.

Law enforcers would work closely with residents’ associations, neighbourhood watch committees, traders’ organisations, elected local body officials, local volunteers, and health workers to ensure social compliance with the COVID-19 protocol and household quarantine.

Authorities would impose containment zones based on feedback from the local population. The police would enlist the help of local opinion leaders to prompt people to wear masks, not to convene in large groups and observe the pandemic rules.

The police have launched a massive community-education and awareness drive to alert the public to the dangers of virus transmission.

Anti-fake news law

Mr. Vijayan said the government would pass anti-fake news legislation to shield citizens from criminal defamation, online slander, harassment and incendiary propaganda, raising the question whether the proposed new law would threaten free speech and social and political satire.

The Chief Minister said the government would not push such a law arbitrarily. He said the government would hold wide-ranging discussions and wait for a consensus to emerge before finalising the law.

He said a recent conference of heads of media organisations had stressed the need for a harsher law to crack down on fake news, which seemed to be on an upward spiral.

Mr. Vijayan revealed that a police inquiry was on into the allegation that some entities close to the political executive had orchestrated a torrent of offensive and provocative online posts that targeted two television journalists, including a woman.

When pressed if his press secretary P.M. Manoj would come under the ambit of the probe, Mr. Vijayan said those who protest against online character assassination should not applaud similar attacks against others.

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