Rajasthan ordinance challenged in HC, Centre says law ‘perfect and balanced’ | Hindustan Times
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Rajasthan ordinance challenged in HC, Centre says law ‘perfect and balanced’

State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria tabled the controversial piece of legislation amid black armband protests by the opposition Congress, which has vowed to block the passage of the bill.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2017 15:44 IST
Urvashi Dev Rawal
The Vidhan Sabha building in Jaipur.
The Vidhan Sabha building in Jaipur. (File)

The Rajasthan government tabled in the assembly on Monday a controversial bill that shielded public servants and politicians from prosecution without prior approval amid protests over the piece of legislation that has already been legally challenged.

A lawyer filed a public interest litigation in the Rajasthan high court on Monday morning against the bill, which bars courts from taking up private complaints against public servants, such as serving and former judges, lawmakers, ministers and officials, without the government’s sanction.

The media is also barred from publishing any details identifying an accused till the government gives its nod for investigation. The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, was promulgated on September 7.

In the assembly, Congress leaders protested against the bill and staged a walkout. Leader of opposition Rameshwar Dudi led a protest march as proceedings got underway and said the Congress opposed this ‘black law’ and would force the government to take back the ordinance.

State Congress president Sachin Pilot, who was detained along with several other party leaders, alleged that the BJP government was trying to institutionalise corruption by way of the order. “This draconian ordinance is a huge setback to public scrutiny. We will oppose it inside and outside the assembly,” he said.

“The government wants to cover up their own corruption. We’ll submit a memorandum to the President,” added Pilot.

But the Centre defended the controversial ordinance, saying it was “perfect and balanced”. “Individual rights and media have been both taken care of. This law is very much needed in these times,” junior law minister PP Chaudhury told news agency ANI.

Activists have also opposed the bill that seeks to “protect both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in Rajasthan” from being investigated for on-duty action without its prior sanction, saying it muzzles free speech.

“What is the government trying to hide from the public? The PUCL demands that the Government repeal this ordinance. The PUCL will challenge this ordinance in the Rajasthan High Court,” said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of civil rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

The ordinance, which provides 180 days immunity to the officers, reads, “No magistrate shall order an investigation nor will any investigation be conducted against a person, who is or was a judge or a magistrate or a public servant.”

If there is no decision on the sanction request post the stipulated time period, it will automatically mean that sanction has been granted.

The ordinance amends the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973 and also seeks curb on publishing and printing or publicising in any case the name, address, photograph, family details of the public servants.

Violating the clause would call for two years imprisonment.