Rajasthan withdraws bill meant to gag media, shield judges and govt servants
The Black law ordinance (Criminal Laws Amendment Bill) which protects officers, politicians and the judges from being investigated has been finally withdrawn.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje today announced the withdrawal of this controversial Bill which was able to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants from being investigated for on-duty action without government sanction which also able to bar the media from reporting on accusations of such wrongdoings till the government sanctions a probe.
The draconian provisions of this bill not only protects the corrupt public servants but also challenges the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under article 19 1 (a) of Indian constitution barring the press to report the cases against public servants.
The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 was tabled in the Assembly last year by state Home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, and had invited sharp criticism and protest from the opposition, rights groups and others.
"We referred the Bill to the Select Committee, we allowed the ordinance to get lapsed and when it is not a law yet, then what should we withdraw? However, we are taking the Bill back from the Select Committee," Raje said in the House amid an uproar by members of the opposition.
On September 2017, the Rajasthan government brought The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 with an intention to muzzle the press. It was an act of legislative conspiracy that came in action overnight. Also, the media did not have an iota of the Bill.
The Rajasthan Patrika was the first Newspaper who broke the story about it. An article against this Bill, written by the Editor in chief of Patrika newspaper group Gulab Kothari was published on the front page of the edition that came out on October 22, 2017.
The newspaper ran a campaign called "Jab Tak Kala, Tab Tak Tala" came into action on the newspaper on November 1, 2017. The following days, it started carrying a Black Lock Box on front page symbolic to countdown and reminding the government each day of the resolve for taking back the Black Bill without any compromise. On the occasion of National Press Day (November 16, 2017), the newspaper stressed on the issue by leaving the edit column blank with a Black Boundary to signify the state of affairs and the position on the draconian bill which will jeopardize the interests of the state and its public at large by muzzling the free voice forever. The struggle was in larger interest and hence, the national media has come heavily in our support.
Rajasthan Patrika pledged its fight till the rollback of this ordinance. We are publishing a book on this whole saga of the black ordinance. The book is divided into various chapters about the Black ordinance, the protest, proceedings in the courts, cartoons etc. We have amalgamated articles by various personalities too.
On Legislative par, the Black ordinance got lapse on December 4, 2017. But was still in consideration with the select committee of the state legislature. The ever adamant Rajasthan government now had rolled back the Black ordinance.