The Editors Guild of India strongly denounced the Rajasthan government’s move to convert a controversial ordinance protecting public servants from probe without prior sanction into an act.
The guild called the ordinance, which was promulgated by the Vasundhara Raje last month, a “pernicious instrument to harass the media, hide wrongful acts by government servants and drastically curb the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution of India”.
The Raje government plans to introduce the ordinance at the state’s legislative assembly in order to turn it into an act. Any ordinance promulgated by any state government must be passed by respective assembly within six months, or it lapses.
The Rajasthan assembly begins a new session today, and the opposition is likely to corner the Raje government on the issue.
The Editors Guild of India, in a hard-hitting statement released Sunday night, said it wants the Rajasthan government to “immediately withdraw the ordinance and desist from making it into law.”
“Rather than taking stern measures to prevent and punish those who indulge in frivolous or false litigation, the Rajasthan government has passed an ordinance that is bent on bludgeoning the messenger,” the statement continued.
“The Guild has always stood for fair, balanced and responsible reporting of FIRs filed in courts of law…” the statement added. “[But] it [the guild] believes that the remedy being employed by the Rajasthan Government is draconian and gives it untrammelled power to even imprison journalists for reporting matters of public interest,” the statement said.
This was in reference to a provision in the ordinance that bars journalists from naming public servants who have been accused of impropriety until the Rajasthan government gives the go-ahead for an investigation to be launched against the individual.
The Raje government has attracted criticism from several quarters over the ordinance, which amends certain sections of the Criminal Procedure Code that allow magistrates to order investigations against public servants if the police fail to register an FIR based on a person’s complaint.
The amendment prohibits magistrates from ordering the police to lodge an FIR or probing allegations against a public servant until the government sanctions the investigation.
The Rajasthan government has defended itself saying that it wants to protect public servants from false complaints.