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BJP-led Union Govt had backed the Bill and approved the Ordinance it sought to replace

Faced with an outburst of indignant opposition from within and outside – except for an approving nod from her party colleagues at the Centre – Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has referred the controversial Bill seeking to protect public servants and judges from investigation without prior government sanction to a select committee of the Legislative Assembly.

(Read: Despite political uproar, PIL in Raj HC, Raje govt tables immunity Bill in Assembly)

The Bill, to replace an Ordinance promulgated on September 7, was tabled in the Assembly by Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria on Monday amid an uproar from the opposition Congress.

At the beginning of the Question Hour on Tuesday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore informed the House that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had held a meeting of ministers last night to discuss the bill and that the home minister would apprise the House of the development, the PTI reported.

Home Minister Kataria said that prior approval of the President was sought before introducing the ordinance in September. Independent MLA Manik Chand Surana had on Monday raised the point that no approval of the President was attached with the bill.

As the opposition MLAs rushed into the Well of the House demanding withdrawal of the bill, Kataria said the government would consider the suggestions put forward by the members. He then moved a proposal to refer it to the select committee. The proposal was passed by the Assembly.

The select committee has been asked to submit its report in the next session.

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, seeks to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state from being investigated for on-duty action, without its prior sanction. It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction to proceed with the probe is given by the government.

Whereas earlier, there was a bar only on prosecuting officers without government approval, the Ordinance, and the proposed Bill to replace it, bar even preliminary investigation of alleged corruption by any public servant. It also bars printing, publishing or publicising in any manner any particulars that reveal the identity of the public servant involved in such a case, without sanction for prosecution. The government is given 180 days to decide on sanction.

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