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JAIPUR: Within 24 hours of tabling in the Rajasthan assembly a bill that sought to shield public servants and judges from investigation, the Vasundhara Raje government on Tuesday put the controversial draft into “cold storage” by sending it to a select committee of the House.
The move followed widespread protests and legal challenges, including two PILs and a writ petition in the Rajasthan high court, against the proposed law.
The select committee is expected to submit its report on the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017, by the budget session of the assembly, normally held in February, home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said.
By then, the controversial ordinance would have lapsed as it has a life of 42 days from the day it was tabled along with the bill in the House (Monday).
Kataria told reporters that the ordinance will remain valid for 42 days from October 23. “The ordinance has not been withdrawn. It will lapse automatically on the 43rd day,” he said.
Advocate general Narpat Mal Lodha told TOI that for enacting a law, any bill replacing the ordinance tabled in the assembly has to be passed within six weeks, whether it is referred to the select committee or not.
Given this, the bill is all set to meet the fate of the Rajasthan Land Acquisition Bill, 2014, which was referred to the select committee in the same year. The panel submitted its recommendations in 2015, but no action has taken place ever since.
Soon after the House resumed proceedings on Tuesday, Kataria proposed that the bill be sent to a select committee. His proposal was cleared by the House unanimously. Kataria will head the committee which is expected to have 15 members.
Heated exchanges took place between Kataria and rebel BJP MLA Ghanshyam Tiwari when the latter alleged that the pre-requisite sanction from the President for the ordinance, which was promulgated on September 6, was not taken by the state government. “I would like to inform the House that the sanction from the President was received on September 4,” Kataria said. He lashed out at Tiwari and opposition members saying they had failed to react for a good one month after the ordinance was published.
Putting up a brave front, parliamentary affairs minister Rajendra Rathore said: “The bill has been only referred to the select committee for consideration and will be presented in the budget session of the assembly beginning in February next year.”
Kataria said the bill was drafted on the lines of a similar law in Maharashtra. He said the major objection to the bill was the provision of two-year jail term for mediapersons for disclosing the identity of a judge or a public servant in cases where government sanction for a probe has not been obtained. He said such a penal provision for mediapersons was not there in the Maharashtra law.
He added that in the Maharashtra law, the deadline for giving sanction for a probe was 90 days while in the present bill, it was doubled to 180 days. There was major resistance to this provision, he added.