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Controversial ordinance

Controversial ordinance

With the enactment of the new ordinance in Rajasthan that requires prior sanction (from the state or Central government as applicable) for probes into the activities of public servants and judges, the Vasundhara Raje government appears to be aiming to sanctify a gag on the media, because the ordinance and the Bill bars the media from naming any accused or giving any identification about the accused until the government decides to investigate the public servant. With an apparent view to providing immunity public servants, the state had promulgated the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017. Now the government wants to make it a law and has introduced The Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill in its assembly. The bill, if becomes an act – which it should, considering that the BJP government has 162 of the 200 seats in the assembly – it would be adding a proviso to Section 156 (3) of the CrPC, saying that no magistrate shall order an investigation nor will any investigation be conducted against any former or present judge, a magistrate or any other public servant.

What is most alarming – particularly for media – as per the ordinance, and the bill, a provision is sought to be added to the Indian Penal Code—Section 228-B. Under this provision, anyone who violates the given clauses would be liable to two years imprisonment and also fine. However, for Raje government protecting the corrupt babus is not a new phenomenon. Two years ago, Rajasthan state Assembly had passed the Rajasthan Vexatious Litigation (Prevention) Bill, 2015, which covered both civil and criminal cases in the high court and subordinate courts. And, the government did not even think to consult the other parties or to give public information before the ordinance was promulgated.

It was not even uploaded on any of the websites of the Law Department or Home ministry of the state. It clearly indicates that since the chief minister enjoys a brute majority in the Assembly, she is sure to ram it through the Assembly without letting people or the media get a smell in this rat. Nonetheless, though it is unclear as to why the Rajasthan government had to bring in a separate ordinance (and now walking towards an Act) to protect the public servants of the state when they are already protected from prosecution under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it is high time for media and whistle-blowers to anticipate few more restrictions from other places also.

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