Rajasthan govt’s gag ordinance will institutionalise corruption: Sachin Pilot

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 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

jaipur Updated: Oct 21, 2017 23:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Gag ordinance,Rajasthan Amendment,Sachin Pilot
State Congress President Sachin Pilot addressing a convention in Jaipur, Rajasthan, on September 14, 2017.(HT File Photo)

The Rajasthan government’s ordinance, which shields public servants from prosecution for on-duty action without prior sanction, will institutionalise corruption, said the opposition Congress, but ministers said the move was meant to protect officials from false allegations.

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, brought on September 6 and published in the gazette the next day, 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 naming an accused till the government gives its nod for investigation.

The newly introduced section 228-B of the Indian Penal Code makes it a criminal offence on the part of anyone who discloses identity of public servants, and provides for two years’ imprisonment and fine, if convicted.

“The intent of the government is blatantly clear; they are trying to institutionalise corruption and intimidating anyone who questions government,” said Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot.

“This will be a huge setback to public scrutiny. It is a draconian law and we will oppose it within and outside the assembly.”

Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, in a series of tweets said, “Rajasthan’s BJP government is acting autocratically by making arbitrary changes to the criminal procedure code. The changes not only stops probe, it also bars media from reporting on any case of corruption. This is being done to shield the corrupt.”

“It reveals how BJP is not at all serious about fighting corruption or maintaining transparency in governance. Putting restrictions on media is very unfortunate and a new kind of censorship and assault on press freedom. The only logic behind these decisions is to hide the scams, to save all involved and to make sure, nothing comes in public domain. Rajasthan BJP government is taking all steps to prepare the ground for encouraging corruption and to keep people in the dark about it,” Gehlot said.

“Amendments in the existing law are wholly unjust. It will not only snatch away powers of the courts, but it’s an onrush upon the freedom of speech of the people of the state. These amendments are absolutely unconstitutional. One will be left with no option if police will refuse to register an FIR against a public servant,” Devkinandan Vyas, advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur said.

Vyas said the present amendments will lead the state towards “authoritarianism and autocracy”.

Ritesh Sharma of LegalMitra, an NGO which mainly deals with legal issues, said that depriving people of their right to approach the court under section 190 and 156 (3) CrPC against arbitrary act of non filing of FIR by police would further complicate the criminal justice system.

The ordinance is expected to be brought in the assembly on Monday or Tuesday for approval. The ruling BJP has 162 of the 200 assembly seats in Rajasthan.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) state general secretary Kavita Srivastava said the aim of the ordinance was to silence the media and prevent the judiciary from setting criminal law in motion.

State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the ordinance would protect officials from media probe and ensure smooth functioning in government offices. “Media intervention causes inconvenience and results in delays in work,” he told reporters in Udaipur.

Parliamentary affairs minister Rajendra Rathore said, “We have brought the ordinance to shield government servants from unnecessary harassment and false allegations. Sometimes people file false cases to defame public officials and prevent them from doing their work.” He said Maharashtra had enacted a similar law.

Rathore said former judges had been brought in the ambit of the ordinance as they often head committees and commissions.


First Published: Oct 21, 2017 21:04 IST