The Telangana government has made crimes falling under Sections 506 and 507 of the Indian Penal Code – which deal with punishment for criminal intimidation and anonymous communication – cognisable offences, The News Minute reported.

Simply put, the tightening of this law essentially gives the police the power to book and arrest people who use harsh language without warrants or a court’s permission. The punishment under both sections is jail time between two and seven years.

“Abusing a person or institution using harsh words and intimidation through anonymous methods will be treated as cognisable and non-bailable offences,” the Hindustan Times quoted a spokesperson from Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s office as saying.

Rao (pictured above) approved the law on January 25, the Hindustan Times said, quoting a communication from the Chief Minister’s Office. “It has been left to the discretion of the state whether or not to take permission of the court before arresting and prosecuting a person under the said sections,” the spokesperson said.

The Opposition Congress, meanwhile, said the government’s move was aimed at crushing dissent, and called it a step to stifle democracy in Telangana, The Times of India reported.

“If the government tries to bulldoze the Opposition, we will go to court against the draconian law, which is all set to be unleashed on the people,” Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president N Uttam Kumar Reddy told the newspaper. “By proposing such a law, the chief minister’s desire to suppress rights of people has been exposed,” he said.

Telangana Joint Action Committee Chairman M Kodandaram, said the term “harsh words” was subjective. “There is no specific explanation as to what a harsh word is. The government and the police can interpret the term in any manner,” Kodandaram, who played a role in the movement for a separate Telangana, told the Hindustan Times.

The Telangana government maintains that it only changed the law to ensure quick relief for people booked under these sections, according to The Times of India. “At present, getting permission from courts to prosecute offenders is taking time,” the report quoted a state government source as saying.