Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Monday announced the withdrawal of a controversial Bill that sought to gag the media and shield judges and government servants from being investigated. The Bill was earlier referred to a Select Committee in the Assembly after protests by the Opposition, journalists and lawyers.
In a reply to the Budget debate in the Assembly, Raje said: “Jis Bill ko humne Select Committee ko refer kiya, jis Ordinance ko lapse hone diya, aaj jo woh kanoon he nahi, toh hum kya waapas len. Phir bhi hum ise wapas le rahe hain (We sent the Bill to the Select Committee, we let the ordinance lapse and today it is not law, what should we withdraw? But we are still withdrawing it).”
The Bill sought to replace the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, which was promulgated on September 6, 2017 by Governor Kalyan Singh. The state government tabled a Bill, to replace the Ordinance, on October 23.
The Ordinance, and then the Bill, prohibited investigation without prior sanction against “a Judge or a Magistrate or a public servant” — acting or former — for any “act done by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties”.
Under its provisions, the media could not report on the accusation against such a person till the prosecution was given the go-ahead from the sanctioning authority.
Amid strong protests, Raje’s government had referred the Bill to a Select Committee, and stated that it had “no desire to act” on the Ordinance in force.
The Ordinance automatically lapsed on December 4 — six weeks after the Bill was tabled — but the Select Committee it yet to submit a report.
Recently, the government had granted the Select Committee more time to submit its report on the Bill. On February 5, Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria had moved a proposal to this effect in the House on the first day of the Budget session, which the Opposition had opposed.
Congress state president Sachin Pilot said, “This should have been done a long time ago. I am surprised the government insisted on this Bill for so long despite the climate against it in the state and the country. I am happy that the Bill has been withdrawn but it has damaged the state’s image and displayed the BJP government’s haughtiness. The CM should now answer how and why did such a Bill come about.”