The Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan is ready with a Bill to replace an Ordinance promulgated last month which prohibits investigation without prior sanction against “a Judge or a Magistrate or a public servant” for any “act done by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties”.
Under the new law, the media too cannot report on the accusation against such a person until the prosecution gets the go-ahead from the sanctioning authority, which may take up to six months.
In the assembly session that starts Monday, the government will bring in The Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill to replace The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, promulgated on September 6.
The Ordinance made additions to sections 156 (3) and 190 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which empower a magistrate to take cognizance of an offence and order an investigation.
The Ordinance added the following to these sections: “Provided that, under the aforesaid sub-section, no Magistrate shall order an investigation nor will any investigations be conducted against a person, who is or was a Judge or a Magistrate or a public servant, as defined under any law for the time being in force, in respect of the act done by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties, expect with previous sanction under section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.”
CrPC section 197 details the sanctioning authorities with respect to prosecution of judges and public servants.
However, the Ordinance empowers the sanctioning authority to take a decision in six months, from the date of the receipt of the proposal for sanction, which has been questioned by the Opposition Congress which said it may give enough time for the accused to move files and dilute the case. The Ordinance says that if the sanctioning authority fails to issue prosecution sanction within six months, it shall be deemed to have been issued.
The Ordinance also gags the media from sharing any information about the accusations or allegations against such officers, till the sanctioning authority gives a go-ahead.
“Provided also that no one shall print or publish or publicize 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 any proceedings under this section is pending, until the sanction as aforesaid has been or deemed to have been issued.”
An insertion of section 228-B “Disclosure of identity of certain public servants” in the Indian Penal Code rounds up the Ordinance, “Whoever contravenes the provisions of fourth proviso of sub-section (3) of section 156, and fourth proviso of sub-section 190… shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.”
While Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria told The Indian Express that he was not aware of the amendments, senior Cabinet Minister Rajendra Rathore said, “Some people have formed a ‘gang’ and concertedly and recklessly used Section 156 (CrPC) against public officials; hence we have taken this step.”
As for the clause restricting media reporting, Rathore said that the official’s image suffers a blow if the media starts writing about accusations.
Govind Singh Dotasra, Congress Deputy Chief Whip in the Rajasthan assembly, said, “You can’t just gag media; it will publish what has to be published. How can government impose such restrictions? Why such privileges to public servants? There should be transparency and we will oppose this Bill. They have attacked Congress over transparency and now they are going ahead with this.”
BJP rebel MLA Ghanshyam Tiwari called it “an unconstitutional Bill”.