PIL filed against Rajastan bill to shield babus, lawmakers from scrutiny

A lawyer today filed a public interest litigation in the Rajasthan high court against a controversial bill introduced in the Rajastan assembly, which seeks to bar courts from taking up private complaints against public servants.

 
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje  

The bill, tabled in the assembly by state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria seeks to bar investigations against public servants, including former judges, lawmakers, ministers and officials, without the government's sanction.

The controversial piece of legislation was moved in the state assembly today amid protests by opposition Congress, which has vowed to block the passage of the bill (See: Rajasthan ordinance to protect babus, politicians from probe draws flak).

Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, was promulgated on 7 September.

The bill, which 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, has now been legally challenged before it gets legislative nod.

The bill also seeks to bar the media from naming an accused till the government gives its nod for investigation.

Media reports showed the state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria tabling the controversial piece of legislation amid black armband protests by the opposition Congress, which has vowed to block the passage of the bill.

''The intent of the government is blatantly clear; they are trying to institutionalise corruption and intimidating anyone who questions government,'' said Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot. The Congress has announced protest marches against the bill.

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.''

Activists have opposed the bill that seeks to ''protect both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in Rajasthan'' from being investigated for on-duty action without its prior sanction, saying it muzzles free speech.

''What is the government trying to hide from the public? The PUCL demands that the government repeal this ordinance. The PUCL will challenge this ordinance in the Rajasthan High Court,'' said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of civil rights group People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

The ordinance, which provides 180 days of immunity to the officers, 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.''

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.