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Rajasthan govt tables controversial bill amid Oppn protest

October 23, 2017 16:39 IST

Amid an uproar from the opposition Congress, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria on Monday tabled in the assembly a bill to replace its ordinance to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants from being investigated without its prior sanction.

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017, seeks to replace the September 7 ordinance, which drew widespread criticism from various quarters.

 

The opposition Congress strongly opposed the bill and staged a walkout. BJP MLA Ghanshaym Tiwari, who had expressed opposition to the ordinance, walked out of the assembly twice when he was not allowed by the Speaker to raise a point of order.

The 9th session of the 14th Assembly began with greetings to President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on their elections to the respective posts.

Soon after, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Meena, raised objection to the bill and an uproar followed.

BJP MLA Ghanshyam Tiwari requested Speaker Kailash Meghwal to allow him to raise a point or order but his plea was rejected. He then walked out of the House.

The opposition Congress and National People's Party MLAs also staged a walkout in protest against the bill.

Amid the uproar, Kataria introduced and tabled the bill in the House.

The Rajasthan government had last month promulgated the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, that seeks to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state from being investigated for on- duty action, without its prior sanction.

It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction to proceed with the probe is given by the government.

After the bill was tabled, Independent MLA Manik Chand Surana through a point of order opposed it, saying there was no prior sanction of the President to the bill which was circulated among the members last night.

He said that prior sanction of the President should be there to amend a central law.

Surana said that the bill also had no object and reasons.

He said it was a "kaala kanoon" (black law) and that the government was trying to impose an undeclared emergency through it.

He said that the opposition would not allow a debate on the bill without the prior sanction of the President.

Responding to Surana, the home minister said that the merits and demerits of the bill would be discussed during the debate and that the bill would become a law only after it waspassed by the House.

A few minuted after they had walked out, opposition members and BJP MLA Tiwari returned to the House.

Tiwari again requested the Speaker to allow him raise a point of order.

He warned of a dharna in the Well of the House if he was not allowed by the Speaker to raise his point, but the Speaker ignored him following which he staged a second walkout.

Tiwari said that he was walking out in protest against the behavior of the Speaker.

Three more bills were also tabled in the House before the session was adjourned for the day.

Meanwhile, a writ petition, challenging the ordinance was filed in the Rajasthan high court.

The petition filed in the Jaipur bench of the high court by activist Bhagwat Gour contends that the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, was "in contravention of fundamental rights as enshrined under Part-III of the Constitution of India", his counsel A K Jain said.

According to the counsel, the ordinance amends the provisions of sections 156 and 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and inserts Section 228-B in the Indian Penal Code.

While section 156 gives police officers the power to investigate a "cognisable case", Section 190 deals with cognisance of offences by magistrates.

He claimed that by inserting CrPC sections 156(3) and 190(1), protection from investigation for on-duty action has been extended to each and every public servant defined under any law -- panches, sarpanches, members or office-bearers of cooperative society, MPs, MLAs, members of cooperation and employees of universities.

He said that the ordinance was violative of Article 14 (equality before law), Article 19 (Freedom of Speech) and Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

He said that Section 156(3) of the CrPC is an outlet provided to a victim when his request for investigating a cognisable offence has not been paid heed by the police.

The magistrate orders an investigation under section 156 (3) of the CrPC.

The counsel said that taking away the power of a magistrate under CrPC Section 156(3) was "violative of the basic structure of the Constitution".

As per the amendment, no magistrate shall order inquiry nor will investigate against a person who is and was a magistrate, judge or a public servant without the prior sanction of the authority.

A writ petition can be filed in the high court or the Supreme Court against violation of the fundamental rights.

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