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Rajasthan govt moves to enact 'gag law'

Move challenged in high court; Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defends the Bill

Press Trust of India  |  Jaipur 

Congress leader Sachin Pilot with party workers stage protest at the Rajasthan Assembly in Jaipur on Monday
Congress leader Sachin Pilot with party workers stage protest at the Rajasthan Assembly in Jaipur on Monday

The on Monday tabled a controversial Bill that seeks to protect public servants and judges from prosecution and bar the media from reporting on allegations against them without its prior sanction sparking a legal challenge and protests inside and outside the Assembly.

The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Assembly by Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria to replace an ordinance promulgated on September 7. As the move by the Vasundhara Raje drew widespread criticism from various quarters, a rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Ghanshyam Tiwari opposed the Bill. “This is a kala kanoon (black law) and I am against it,” Tiwari told reporters. “It is undemocratic and unconstitutional.” But the Centre defended the Bill with Union Minister for and Justice PP Chaudhury saying it was a “balanced” measure keeping interests of everyone in mind.

Union Minister defended the Bill. He said the move seeks to stop motivated complaints and let honest officers work. “What I have gathered is that the idea is that there should not be any motivated complaint. Officers were feeling harassed in discharging their duties,” he told a press conference in New Delhi. 

He referred to a study offered by the state’s government, which said over 73 per cent of such cases were false. President and several party leaders were briefly detained by the police in Jaipur soon after they took out a march against the lergislative measure. They were later released. “We will not let the pass the Bill. We are strongly opposing it,” Pilot said after being released.

In the 200-member Assembly, the has 160 MLAs while the has 24 members. The state while defending the Bill said the measure was required to put an end to what it called an end to frivolous litigations against public servants. The only aim of the ordinance is that people do not misuse section 156(3) CrPC to tarnish the image of honest officers by levelling baseless allegations, according to Kataria. From 2013 to 2017, 73 per cent of the people who were probed under section 156(3) CrPC faced mental harassment although they were not guilty, he said.

The Editors Guild of India urged the to withdraw the ordinance calling it “harmful”. The ordinance is a “pernicious instrument” to harass the media, the Guild said while reacting to the ordinance that also bars the media from naming the public servant till the allows the case to be investigated. Activist Bhagwat Gour filed a petition in the Jaipur bench of the high court challenging the ordinance, calling it “arbitrary and mala fide”.

First Published: Tue, October 24 2017. 02:30 IST