Jaipur : The Rajasthan government’s move to amend a law on probing public servants has met with large-scale criticism, with politicians and rights bodies terming it as unconstitutional and a move to shield corruption.
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.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the Vasundhara Raje government for bringing in the ordinance which amends the CrPC and IPC and introduces sections and provisos to “gag the media and clips the powers of the magistrate to order investigation, investigate or take cognisance of complaints against public servants including judges and magistrates”.
“This has to be repealed by the government, as this undermines freedom of speech and expression of the media and also does not want any court to begin prosecution, very clearly showing that there is a lot that the government wishes to hide,” PUCL said in a statement.
“We demand that the government immediately repeal this ordinance and not place it in the forthcoming state assembly session for its passage to make an act,” Kavita Srivastava, president, PUCL Rajasthan said while addressing a press conference here on Saturday.
She said that the PUCL will challenge this ordinance in the Rajasthan High Court at the earliest.
“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 Rajasthan government through an ordinance, Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, has made amendments in the Criminal Procedure code, 1973 and Indian Penal Code, 1980, in order to restrain the courts from ordering an investigation against a person, who is or was a judge or magistrate or a public servant, for any act done by them during discharge of their official duties. Besides, no investigation can be conducted by any probe agency against the persons specified without there being any prosecution sanction.
The sanctioning authority will have to take its decision within 180 days from the date of the receipt of proposal. The ordinance also provides that in absence of a decision within the stipulated time period the sanction will be deemed to have been granted.
The ordinance also states that no one shall print or publish or publicise in any manner the name, address, photographs, family details or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of a judge or magistrate or a public servant against whom proceedings are pending, until the sanction has been deemed to have been issued. Any contravention of the provisions shall be punished with imprisonment upto two years and also fine.
The state government is likely to table this bill in the upcoming state assembly session starting from October 23.