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Rajasthan ordinance: The public will uproot this govt in the polls

Gulab Kothari | Updated on: 23 October 2017, 21:21 IST

The session of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly began on Monday. It is likely to be a brief session, just to go through the formalities of the House. In this session, the legislators have put forward around 1,200 questions, but from the point of view of democracy, the most important issue is the amendment in Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by the state government regarding filing of ‘Istigasa’ (a complaint or an application to a magistrate seeking permission for prosecution).

Through this amendment, by adding Section 228 B in Section 228 of IPC, a provision has been made for two years’ imprisonment and a fine for those who act against Section 156(3) and Section 190(1) (c) of CrPC. Under this, one would need to seek official permission for publishing or broadcasting allegations against a judge, magistrate or public servant. And these officials cannot be prosecuted without the government’s clearance. In case of the judiciary, the High Court’s permission has been made mandatory for the prosecution of a judge.

Whither democracy?

The real meaning of all this is that the government is showing that it has no faith in democracy. It desires absolute freedom that is characteristic of the feudal era. It longs for the reign of Duryodhana. It has given a license for the perpetuation of the existing corrupt system and it seeks to guarantee immunity for governments in the future as well.

Remember, when Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had said in the Assembly “We are taking a flight of courage”. This is courage indeed! Seven crore people of Rajasthan, who had brought them to power with an overwhelming majority, are feeling cheated.

Those in power even rejected the persistent opposition of the law department and grabbed control of it. Now who would stop this immoral assault? This is an unethical move because this amendment is unconstitutional. It is against the Supreme Court's 2012 judgment, pronounced in the Subramanian Swamy case.

The Maharashtra government implemented the same law two years ago. In that the government has been given three months’ time for giving clearance for prosecution and there is no provision for punishment.

The undue haste demonstrated by the Rajasthan government in bringing this new law is also surprising. Every step such as taking the President’s approval for the ordinance or getting it sanctioned by the Governor has been done in a hurry.

People’s misery

The BJP government and its 200 MLAs are standing at the threshold of the next Assembly elections. For the past four years, the people of Rajasthan have witnessed how corruption has grown.

On one hand, the common man has is reeling under the twin blows of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST). On the other, they are being further harmed because of the state’s nefarious intentions. If this amendment gets passed, it is certain that the people will uproot the government with both hands in the next election despite a weak Opposition. Democracy will carve out its own path. The BJP was not voted to power to establish a reign of crime, corruption and chaos. Congress is not ready to come out of its own burrow.

It will not be wrong to term this government as “spineless” because it is making laws to protect the corrupt instead of punishing them. Have the rights of crores of voters been put to waste? Or are corrupt public officials serving the self-interest of the government?

The MLAs should keep in mind the future of the state as well as their own future. Wealth is inert. Their acts driven by the greed for wealth will create circumstances which we can’t even imagine. As they have to remain in politics in the future as well, they should show a sense of balance. If this amendment which destroys democracy is passed, the MLAs will not pass in the people’s court.

The government is only working to protect corrupt legislators and the public servants. It is providing them an open license for crime and corruption. The reason for this brazenness is the absolute majority that this government enjoys.

Due to this arrogance of power, a law is being brought against the removal of legislators found guilty of having offices of profit as given in the 91st Amendment of the Constitution. This is despite the fact that the President had rejected this in the case of the Delhi government’s proposal and that six High Courts in India have ruled against tampering with the 91st amendment of the Constitution. One notable aspect of this is that in 2013, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented similar amendments (regarding Parliamentary Secretaries) in the Rajya Sabha. This amendment could not be passed due to strong opposition from the BJP and it is still pending. Now the same BJP is passing this law with the help of all 200 MLAs in Rajasthan.

The legislators must seriously  think about the following questions. Should a state government be ordering a court about which case it should hear and which case it shouldn’t? Should it be necessary for the court to secure the government's approval for prosecution even after a police investigation? How does the injunction against publishing the names of the accused caught by the Anti-Corruption Bureau or other investigating agencies stand against the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression provided in Article 19(1) of the Constitution?

If such an amendment is passed, what is the need for voting, holding elections or even the Constitution itself? The amendment is the Rajasthan government’s way of indirectly announcing that it doesn’t believe in public interest and democracy.

A big question also arises as to whether the steps taken in Maharashtra and Rajasthan have the approval of BJP president Amit Shah.

(Published as Page 1 Edit on October 22, 2017 edition of Patrika)

First published: 23 October 2017, 21:21 IST
Gulab Kothari

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