Jaipur: An ordinance by the Rajasthan government will prevent cases being lodged against officers and judges for any act commited by them while they were in service. The ordinance also prevents courts from issuing directions to register cases against them. Further the ordinance prevents that the names or pictures of the persons to be made public.
The Ordinance was implemented on September 7 and is likely to come up for discussion in the coming assembly session to take the form of a Bill.
The ordinance titled Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 is an Amendment in the section 156 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and provides that “no magistrate shall order an investigation against a person who is or was a judge or magistrate or a public servant, as defined under any other law for the time being in force, in respect to the act done by them while purporting or act in the discharge of their official duties, except with previous sanction under the section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Act No 2 of 1974) or under any other law for the time being in force”
As per the provisions of the ordinance, the sanctioning authority shall take a decision on the sanction of prosecution within 180 days, in case the sanctioning authority fails to do so, automatic prosecution shall be deemed to have been issued.
It provides that no one shall print, publish or publicize the name, address, photograph or any other details or particulars of the judge, magistrate or public servant that can lead to the disclosure of his identity. It further states that anyone who violates the above provisions of the ordinance could be fined and / or imprisoned up to two years.
As per legal experts this ordinance will render registration of cases against corrupt public servants to become an absolute right of the government. As the agencies that register cases are government agencies. The next option available to the common man was to register court complaint (istagasa) and court to order its registration under 156/3; but the new ordinance prevents that.
Social activists feel that the other provision of protection of identity would prevent the media from publishing news and identity of cases of corruption. The word ‘publicize’ would also give rights to the government to act against persons writing about it on social media.
The home minister could not be contacted to comment on the issue.
Kavita Shrivastav, national secretary PUCL, said the if the Ordinance gives absolute complete immunity to all in government, including the political executive bureaucrats and all levels of judiciary then it is unacceptable.
He said: “The govt has the responsibility of ensuring protection of fundamental rights and if there is violation in the implementation, then the people have a right to question and prosecution to make them accountable. If the ordinance gives immunity to all in govt and judiciary It will be defeated in court of law and the PUCL will scrutinize challenge it in the Rajasthan High court or Supreme Court.”
How the ordinance will change things:
- Cases against officials are largely registered by government agencies like ACB and CID. The procedure of receiving complaint, registration of case, investigation and filing a case (chalan) takes over a year or even more. As per this ordinance, the six months period would pass, and they will go scot-free.
- It will curtail the right of the common man in lodging cases against corrupt officials. Earlier the common man had the right to approach court and the court if it felt appropriate the court had the right to direct police to lodge cases. This curtails the power of the court.
- It will curtail the rights of the media. The ordinance will prevent them from publishing names pictures of the officials who are accused of corruption. This will make them fearless in anonymity.
- It will prevent anyone from writing on social media about corrupt officials.