Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why Rajasthan Raj Bhawan uploaded Karva Chauth greeting, not "sinister" anti-media Ordinance on its site?: PUCL

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje
By Our Representative
In an interesting revelation, one-and-a-half months after it was promulgated, the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, has not been put up for public view on the website of the state's Home or the Law Department. Worse, even the Rajasthan Raj Bhawan (Governor’s) website, last updated on the September 11, has not listed the ordinance in its list of Acts and Ordinances.
Noting this, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), calling the Ordinance an effort to "silence the media and to prevent the judiciary from exercising its judicial function of setting the criminal law in motion", says, "Interestingly the Governor’s website has more than 24 press notes on its website after September 6, the date when the ordinance was promulgated, including greetings for Karva Chauth to the people of the state."
A PUCL statement -- signed by Prem Krishan Sharma, senior advocate and former president PUCL, Rajasthan; Radha Kant Saxena (retired IG prisons, vice-president National PUCL; and Kavita Srivastava, president, PUCL, Rajasthan -- says that even the press note on the Ordinance has not been put up on any website, which shows that "the intent was to suppress the information from the public, leave alone holding pre-legislative consultation."
Promulgated on September 6, and published on September 7, in the official gazette, PUCL says, the ordinance is a "sinister attempt of the Government of Rajasthan to abridge the fundamental right of speech and expression guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and to thwart the citizens right to access criminal justice system in cases of complaints against abuse of law by public servants."
Pointing out that this is done by introducing "two provisos to Sec. 156 (3) and Sec. 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and by inserting a new offence in the Indian Penal Code by way of introducing a new clause, Sec. 228-B,", PUCL says, the ordinance makes an offence termed "disclosure of identity of certain public servants", including judges and magistrates.
"The true intention is to place a ban on a judicial magistrate before whom a complaint of having committed offences is made against any public servant, from either ordering the police to investigate the complaint or, worse, from any investigation being conducted against the public servant while acting or purporting to act during discharge of the official duties", unless sanctioned by the government, PUCL says.
It adds, "The amendment brought about to sec. 190 (1) of the CrPC directing that 'no magistrate shall order investigation nor will any investigation be conducted' is a meaningless" as "the existing provision in sec. 197 already provides protection to public servants by making it mandatory for a court to take cognisance of an offence against public servant only after getting prior sanction of the government."
However, it adds, "The ominous intent in the amendment becomes clear when we notice that while sec. 197 uses the term 'cognisance' the new amendment refers to the word 'investigate'. The true and alarming intention therefore is to prevent at the very threshold, any possibility of 'investigation' being ordered by a Magistrate when clinching evidence is prima facie brought before the court."
Says PUCL, "The sinister purpose in the new amendment is exposed when we consider a new proviso, stating that no one 'shall print or publish or publicise in any manner the name, address, photographs, family details or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of the identity of such public servants' until such time that the state government has given sanction to prosecute."
Pointing out that the ordinance introduces "a new offence, sec. 228-B of the Indian Penal Code, making it a criminal offence on the part of anyone who discloses identity of certain public servants and provides for two years imprisonment and fine, if convicted", PUCL says, "The menacing import is very clear: to silence the media and to prevent the judiciary from exercising its judicial function of setting the criminal law in motion."

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