Rajasthan ordinance to protect babus, politicians from probe draws flak

The Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has tabled in the assembly a controversial bill that seeks to shield public servants and politicians as well as serving and former judges from prosecution over on-duty action without its prior approval.

The bill seeks to enact into law the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, promulgated on 7 September, which also bars the media from reporting on accusations till the sanction to proceed with the probe is obtained.

The ordinance bars courts from taking up private complaints against public servants, such as serving and former judges, lawmakers, ministers and officials, without the government's sanction.

The ordinance and bill led to protests and an immediate legal challenge. A lawyer has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Rajasthan High Court on Monday morning against the bill. The petition says the order allows a "large section of the society the license to commit crime".

The ordinance reads, ''No magistrate shall order an investigation nor will any investigation be conducted against a person, who is or was a judge or a magistrate or a public servant.'' It provides 180 days immunity to the officers.

If there is no decision on the sanction request post the stipulated time period, it will automatically mean that sanction has been granted.

The ordinance amends the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973 and also seeks curb on publishing and printing or publicising in any case the name, address, photograph, family details of the public servants. Violating the clause would call for two years imprisonment.

In the assembly, Congress leaders protested against the bill and staged a walkout. Leader of opposition Rameshwar Dudi led a protest march as proceedings got under way and said the Congress opposed this 'black law' and would force the government to take back the ordinance.

State Congress president Sachin Pilot alleged that the BJP government was trying to institutionalise corruption by way of the order. ''This draconian ordinance is a huge setback to public scrutiny. We will oppose it inside and outside the assembly,'' he said.

''The government wants to cover up their own corruption. We'll submit a memorandum to the President,'' added Pilot.

Constitutional expert Shanti Bhushan said, ''It is highly improper and should be quashed. What it means is politicians want to do corruption and do not want to be investigated.''

But the Centre defended the controversial ordinance, saying it was ''perfect and balanced''. ''Individual rights and media have been both taken care of. This law is very much needed in these times,'' minister of state for law PP Chaudhury told news agency ANI.

(See: PIL filed against Rajastan bill to shield babus, lawmakers from scrutiny)