As Protests Mount, Rajasthan Government Hits Pause On 'Gag Law': 10 Points

The Rajasthan 'gag law', introduced through an ordinance or executive order last month by the Raje government, will be reviewed by a select committee headed by the state home minister

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As Protests Mount, Rajasthan Government Hits Pause On 'Gag Law': 10 Points

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Vasundhara Raje called a late-night meeting to discuss a review of the 'gag law'

Jaipur:  Rajasthan today deferred at least until next year a controversial measure to protect ministers and officials from corruption investigations and restrict the media from reporting on them. Pummeled by critics, the BJP government referred an ordinance or executive order it had issued last month, to an all-party committee for review. An amended bill will be introduced in the next session. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje set offlaunched the reassessment after calling her top ministers for a meeting late last night. The ordinance will lapse after six weeks or December 5, but officials insist it makes no difference to the review.
Here are the latest developments in this big story:
  1. The measure stops courts from taking up complaints against ministers, lawmakers and officials without the government's approval.
  2. It also makes it a crime for the media to report on any accused public official without sanction; journalists can face two years in jail for any violation. This is the part that is mainly being reconsidered, say sources. Many call it a gag order against the media.
  3. The bill sets a six-month deadline for courts to secure the government's permission for any investigations into the actions of judges or public servants. Sources say the government is open to reducing this deadline by half.
  4. Despite protests and two petitions in court, the Raje government tabled its bill to replace the ordinance yesterday. The BJP, with a comfortable majority in the house, had planned to enact the law after a debate in the three-day session.
  5. The proposed law drew searing criticism not just from activists and the opposition Congress but also from at least two lawmakers of the ruling BJP. 
  6. One of them, Ghanshyam Tiwari, even compared it to the Emergency of 1975 under Congress rule, when opposition leaders were jailed and the media was gagged. 
  7. "This is against the principles of the party. We did not fight against the Emergency to have a BJP government bring such a law," Mr Tiwari told NDTV. 
  8. A petition in the high court argues that it allows a "large section of the society the license to commit crime". 
  9. The Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh had first moved similar changes in 2013 to the anti-corruption law, apparently to protect honest officials. The BJP government in Maharashtra has already passed a law like this, but no law has tried to gag the media before.
  10. The Rajasthan government had said a law was necessary to end "frivolous allegations" meant to defame ministers and officials.


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