Vishad Srivastava, Legal News Reporter
With the new ordinance by the Vasundhara Raje’s government it has again brought up the heated debate of free and express views of media and the most controversial right that is right to speech or freedom of speech and expression. As if the murder of journalist and attempts to silence and intimidate media houses from reporting the facts about the ruling party and the government by slapping many crores defamation cases were not bad enough comes a fresh jolt to press freedom – an ordinance brought by the Vasundhara Raje government to stop the media from reporting on corruption charges against public servants, magistrates and judges. The Rajasthan government ordinance prohibits investigation without prior sanction against “a judge or a magistrate or a public servant” for any “act done by them while acting or purporting to act in discharge of their official duties”. That sanction can take anything up to six months. Secondly, till sanction is granted, the media cannot report accusations against such persons nor can activists take up the matter. If either do so, they could be jailed for two years. The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) ordinance amended section 156 and 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code. As soon as the news spread it has faced criticism from many sources starting from social media to all the social activist. All have started it has oppose this ordinance as attack to the free press and journalism. After being criticized for their move central government came up and defended it with the argument that it is brought up so that no malicious and false story or case can be move against the public official which can defame him or her. The changes are broadly patterned on restrictions proposed in the prevention of corruption Act pending in parliament Rajyasabha. The Manmohan Singh government had first moved similar changes in 2013 to the anti corruption law, ostensibly to protect honest public servants. The Rajasthan government has gone a step ahead and outlaws any reporting. The Supreme Court had last upheld the right of a private citizen to set the anti bribery law in motion in January 2012 in the judgement delivered on a petition by BJP leader Subramanium Swamy the court had ruled that the constitutional right of the citizen to file a complaint should not be burdened with unreasonable fetters. Thirty-five years before the Rajasthan government sought to move legislation seeking to restrict press coverage and shield judges and public servants from investigation into criminal cases, the Bihar Press Bill of 1982 had sought to similarly muzzle the press. The Bihar Press Bill was withdrawn after a year, it had proposed to give the state government the authority to prevent printing and publishing of “grossly indecent and scurrilous matter or matters” intended to blackmail. Any such matter published in newspapers and periodicals and circulars or exhibited or distributed could be held against journalists, editors and distributing agents. It provided for punishment up to two years with or without fine for the first offence, and a jail term up to five years for subsequent offences. It sought to allow a police officer to arrest journalists and have them tried by an executive magistrate. Jagannath Mishra then Chief Minister of Bihar proposed this bill and had said in the recent interview that he realized this wrong after moving this for the assent of president.
Present Rajasthan bill has faced protest from congress and members of PUCL who have filed the petition and many other petition has also been filed under this contest but not caring of such protest government has proposed the ordinance in the 200 seat assemble where 162 is of ruling B.J.P Government the government want ordinance to be in law and for this it has given the bill to the select committee but as opposition is less in no. so congress party Rajasthan Head Sachin Pilot has filed petition challenging the ordinance which mention about the amendment. The petition was presented before the division bench of Justice Rastogi and Justice Maheshwari and petition contended that this ordinance should be very firstly assigned as a bill and not as a ordinance and this ordinance clearly marks executive upper hand over the judiciary, reference to Subramanium Swamy vs Dr. Manmohan Singh was made in the petition which discussed about the anti bribery law and private person filing of complaint. Petition further contends that it also violates freedom of expression and create a class difference between public officials and another persons.The Rajasthan High Court has issued notice for which it has given tilem till Novemeber for reply from the government.
Various protest has been there starting from PUCL to producer’s guild all are demanding to abandon this vague ordinance although there are instances of defaming a public authority but this cases can be solved through another route and banning media is simply not the solution it is completely unconstitutional move and this move remind us all the black era of emergency where Indira Gandhi government has started to her own dictatorship and here in the present scenario not complete part of that black era is performed but yes some part definitely where it is straight away violating the Article 19 and Article 14. Vasundhra government should understand the ratio behind the protest and should rethink about their move where there are saving few honest but indirectly safe guarding the sorrupt and thereby weakening Prime Minister target of zero tolerance towards corruption.