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April 23, 2018
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 Rajasthan High Court issues notice to Centre, Rajasthan on pleas against 'gag' ordinance The court asks the governments to submit their replies by November 27.

The Rajasthan High Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and the State government on a batch of writ petitions challenging the controversial ordinance that has extended protection to public servants against investigation.

The court asked the governments to submit their replies by November 27.

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, promulgated on September 6, has provided immunity to the serving and retired public servants, judges and magistrates from probe and prosecution on the complaints about their alleged offences without prior sanction. It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction is given.

A Division Bench headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi clubbed all the seven writ petitions for hearing and posted the matter for November 27. The petitioners include Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot and AAP leader Poonam Chand Bhandari.

The State government has also introduced a Bill to replace the Ordinance in the Assembly and it has been referred a select committee of the House. However, the Ordinance still remains in force. All the writ petitions have sought quashing of the Ordinance with the contention that it infringes upon constitutional rights of citizens and will encourage corruption.

The petitions include a public interest litigation moved by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, which has contended that the Ordinance violates Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 19 (1) (a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution by curtailing the powers of courts to order investigation on complaints made against public servants, judges and magistrates.

Arguing in the court, the counsels representing the petitioners took exception to the new provision, with the insertion of Section 228-B in the Indian Penal Code, for punishment for disclosure of public servants’ identity until the sanction for investigation and prosecution is given. They contended that it restricted the freedom of media and amounted to violation of the right to free speech.