'This bill is to relieve the government of accountability and to cover up its corruption.'
Rajasthan's Vasundhara Raje government has come under fire from civil society and activist groups after it tabled a new bill in the assembly on Monday, October 23.
If the bill -- the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill -- is passed, it will amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, to bar the media from naming a public servant accused of wrongdoing until the state government allows the case to be investigated.
The bill wants to turn into law an ordinance passed by the state government on September 7, amending Sections 156 and 190 of the CrPC.
People's Union for Civil Liberties Secretary Kavita Srivastava -- a resident of Rajasthan -- tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf what this bill means for a democracy like India.
How will you explain this new bill to a layperson?
It is a two-fold attack.
One on the judiciary, by attacking the most significant functionary of the judiciary, the magistrate, or a first class judicial magistrate, who has an extremely significant power of ordering investigation in or taking cognisance of a case (against government officers).
So this new bill is an attack on the judiciary by taking away the power, thwarting it by saying they do not have power to prosecute until the government gives a sanction.
Now, even to initiate an investigation one needs to take the government's permission.
This over-reach will completely finish the independence of the judiciary.
The other point is that they are trying to gag the media.
The government has no right to tell the media what to do and what not to do.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly said this. Even in the judgment which struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, it clearly said the government cannot interfere.
This bill is an attack on freedom of speech and expression.
This bill doesn't only apply to sitting judges and public servants, but also to retired public servants.
What is this nonsense!
In short, this bill is to relieve the government of accountability and to cover up its corruption.
A year is left for elections in Rajasthan and therefore this bill has been brought.
Can we say this bill endangers democracy in our country?
Absolutely. This bill is tinkering with the pillars of democracy which are independent of each other.
The government cannot have this kind of overreach or control.
Vasundhara Raje is going against the Constitution.
Justifying the bill, state Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said he was an accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, whereas he was discharged later. He was mentally harassed for long.
This bill will avoid such possibilities is the belief.
His acquittal is being challenged in the Supreme Court by (activist) Harsh Mander. So Kataria is not out of it as yet.
And if he is bringing this bill on a personal ground, then that is a good reason to scrap it.
He cannot bring this bill on a personal ground. This is nonsense.
Kataria must get his laws vetted better. He cannot amend the Indian Penal Code or the CrPC.
We totally disagree with the government and the intent is very clear -- to cover the crimes.
If you see the bill from the government's perspective, 73 per cent of all such cases fall through. It is nothing more than mental harassment for public servants.
A police closure report does not mean a closure (of the case). It can be challenged in a magisterial court. You know how these things function.
If the police closes your case, then you go and get it open through a magistrate.
You file a protest against police closure and get it challenged. We keep doing it all the time.
The government is telling only half the story. The police may close the case, but that is not enough.
The police may have closed a genuine case.
What happened in the Aarushi murder case? The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) filed a closure report, but the judge did not agree and he opened the case.
It is up to the judge to reopen the case on request.
Maharashtra also brought in a similar ordinance, so why can't Rajasthan do it?
That law has also been challenged in the Bombay high court though I don't think it (the Maharashtra ordinance) has a provision to gag the media.
Also, it (the Maharashtra ordinance) stipulates a waiting period of three months to get government sanction.
In the Rajasthan ordinance, this period is six months.