Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra on 26 October compared the Bihar Press Bill of 1982 with the Rajasthan Government's ordinance and said that latter was worse.
Thirty-five years ago Jagannath Mishra had introduced a bill similar to the recent Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, which seeks to restrict press coverage and shield judges and public servants from an investigation into criminal cases.
"The Rajasthan ordinance is worse than Bihar Press Bill, because, in the Rajasthan ordinance, no case or FIR can be filed against the judges and public servants without the permission of the government. And those who dare to do press coverage then they will be penalized or can face jail term. This was not there in our Press Bill. In the Press Bill, we only demanded that derogatory news should not be published. The Rajasthan ordinance is not in the public interest," he said.
Mishra said that news reports of a bitter relationship between the prime minister Indira Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi also led to the introduction of the Bihar Press Bill.
"Indira ji was upset with the reports published in the newspaper about her differences with Maneka Gandhi. She was really disturbed. So I got the hint of introducing the Press Bill," he added.
Citing mass protest a reason of the withdrawal of the Bill, Mishra said they chose people's democratic right over the Bill.
"The entire press fraternity across the country had protested against the Press Bill so we decided to withdraw it. The Bill was not intended to suppress the voice of the press, but it was in public interest. But considering the intensity of protest, we surrendered to people's rights and withdrew the bill," he added.
The Rajasthan Government, in the current legislative session, passed an ordinance that protects both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state from being investigated for on-duty action without prior sanction.
The ordinance was tabled in the Rajasthan Assembly on 23 October.
The ordinance also sought to bar the media from reporting on accusations against the judges and bureaucrats till the sanction to proceed with the probe is obtained.
The ordinance is an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.