[op-ed snap] Unacceptable fetters

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ordinance making powers of the President and Governor(read from M Laxmikanth)

Mains level: The issue is related to the Freedom of Speech, corruption, etc; which make it relevant from the UPSC perspective.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the recent Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017.

It is an Ordinance protecting public servants

  1. The Rajasthan ordinance making it a punishable offence to disclose the names of public servants facing allegations of corruption before the government grants formal sanction to prosecute them
  2. It is a grave threat to media freedom and the public’s right to know

Punishment under the ordinance

  1. Section 228-B, the newly introduced(through the ordinance) Indian Penal Code offence that relates to acts done in the course of discharging official functions
  2. It prescribe a two-year prison term for disclosing the identity of the public servants concerned

Other issues related to the ordinance

  1. The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 restricts judicial magistrates from ordering an investigation without prior sanction
  2. It may even paralyse an impending probe, as no investigating agency can approach a sanctioning authority without gathering any material
  3. It is an additional shield for public servants who already enjoy the protection of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988
  4. The sections make prior sanction mandatory before a court can take cognizance of a case
  5. It may even paralyse an impending probe, as no investigating agency can approach a sanctioning authority without gathering any material

Other sanctions by Union and State governments, protecting public servants

  1. The Union government, too, has a set of amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act pending since 2013, including a proviso for prior sanction
  2.  Provisions barring investigation or prosecution without prior sanction are also in force in Maharashtra

The SC on such santions

  1. The SC verdict of May 2014 striking down a statutory provision for prior government clearance for a CBI probe against officials is very important
  2. The court had observed that such a provision destroys the objective of anti-corruption legislation, blocks the truth from surfacing, thwarts independent investigation and forewarns corrupt officers
  3. Anti-corruption legislation in India seems to be in a state of unacceptable flux

The way forward

  1. It is time the Centre enforced a strong body of legislation that punishes the corrupt, protects the honest, and ensures time-bound public services and whistle-blower safety
Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.
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