The Rajasthan government on Monday tabled a controversial Bill that seeks to protect public servants and judges from prosecution and bar the media from reporting on allegations against them without its prior sanction, sparking a legal challenge and protests inside and outside the Assembly. According to sources, unnerved by the protests, the government may refer the Bill again to the Cabinet for a rethink.
The move drew widespread criticism from various quarters, including from a BJP rebel MLA. But the Centre defended the Bill with Union Minister for Law and Justice PP Chaudhury saying it was a “balanced” measure keeping everyone’s interests in mind. Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot and several party leaders were briefly detained by the police in Jaipur soon after they took out a march against the legislative measure. They were later released.
“We will not let the government pass the bill. We are strongly opposing it,” Pilot told reporters after being released. In the 200-member state Assembly, the BJP has 160 MLAs while the Congress party has just 24 members. The state government, while defending the bill, said the measure was required to put an end to what it called were frivolous litigations against public servants.
The Editors Guild, too, has urged the state government to withdraw the ordinance, dubbing it as a “pernicious instrument” to harass the media. An activist has filed a petition before the Jaipur bench of the high court challenging the ordinance, calling it “arbitrary and mala fide”.
Pilot told reporters that the ordinance was promulgated as the chief minister feared that she might be in trouble due to corruption charges that may surface in the near future.