At least three writs were filed in Rajasthan High Court on Monday against the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, stating that it violates the constitutional rights of citizens and will encourage corruption.
The ordinance, which the government seeks to replace with a Bill in the ongoing Assembly session and was promulgated by Governor Kalyan Singh last month, 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 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.
A writ petition was filed by advocate Bhagwat Gour through advocate Ajay Kumar Jain, while two PILs were filed by advocates Poonam Chand Bhandari and Srijana Shresth. The Bill was tabled in the Assembly Monday.
Gour’s writ petition prayed that the ordinance be declared ultra vires, void and unconstitutional since it violates Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, which include equality before the law, fair investigation and the right to freedom of speech and expression. He argued that by adding provisions in CrPC, sections 156(3) and190 (1), CrPC section 197 has been extended to each and every public servant defined under any law which means any “panch, sarpanch, member or office bearer of Cooperative Society, MP, MLA, employees of universities” have also been given arbitrary protection of investigation of crime.
Another contention, according to Gour, is that while “judiciary has been separated from executive control as per Constitutional arrangement”, curtailing power of a Magistrate through the ordinance “violates basic structure of the Constitution.”
Praying that the ordinance be struck down, Poonam Chand Bhandari, 62, said in his PIL that “this ordinance has stultified judicial scrutiny and determination of allegation against corrupt officials, and thus the legitimacy of the judicial institution is eroded.”
He said that the “ordinance has virtually armed the government with unbridled power” and also said that the move was a “direct attack” on the media.
Shresth, who also filed a PIL, said that as a result of the ordinance, a magistrate cannot direct the “registration of an FIR against the public servant without prior sanction of the competent authority/state government and it has accorded unprecedented impunity to public servants, who otherwise are rarely apprehended for their acts of the corruptions….”