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The Rajasthan Ordinance: A Threat to Freedom of Speech and Expression

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The government of Rajasthan has faced severe flak for tabling discussion on the much controversial Rajasthan Ordinance. Here is a look at why it is deemed to be a threat to freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed to every citizen as a fundamental right in India.

India is the host to the longest written constitution in the world which includes mandates for the very crucial fundamental rights, enunciated in Part 3 of the constitution. The said rights are granted to every citizen of India and accumulate to become the very basic unit and the essence of our democracy. One specific article, among the prolific, is Article 19 (a) which grants the citizens of the country the right to the freedom of speech and expression in India. It is often said that the media is considered to be the third pillar of democracy.

Recently, the Rajasthan government has been working on The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance or the Rajasthan ordinance which was promulgated early September of this year. The amendment makes it mandatory to obtain the permission/sanctions of the state government before undertaking any investigation against a serving or retired judge, or a magistrate or a public servant: “In respect of any act done by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties”. The ordinance also forbids the publication of any material that discloses the identity of the alleged culprit till the government gives sanction for prosecution. Furthermore, this draconian ordinance the government of Rajasthan hopes to turn into an Act would also imprison activists, journalists and any person who chooses to speak out about a ‘corrupt’ public service in a public domain without obtaining the correct permissions.

This ordinance not only violates Article 19 of our constitution but also shows a clear contradiction to Article 14 (Right to Equality) guaranteed by the constitution. The sanction that the ordinance speaks of could take up to six months, during which the media would also be restricted to report about any cases related to the accused public servants. This ordinance does nothing but provides a blanket of security to those accused of corruption or criminal activity and basically grants them a special pedestal since they no longer would be treated as equally as a normal citizen before the law. The six month period could very well be used to tamper or dilute evidence.

This ordinance has been vastly criticised by the High Court, International Media and has been referred to as an “assault on democracy” by prominent political personalities. Many have branded this amendment act to be draconian and backward. The need of the hour is to ensure accountability among public servants and those holding public office. The implementation of this act will not only curtail that but provide an evil privilege to office holders.


Feature Image Credits: The Hindu

Bhavya Banerjee

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