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New Delhi, June 18: The decision of the Maharashtra Cabinet which recently amended a provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to prevent filing of an FIR against a 'public representative' without the sanction of a Competent Authority is being questioned. Read more: Maharashtra to have motorcycle cabs now? Association for Democratic Reforms an organization working towards political reforms says that this decision is clearly not taken in the right spirit and runs contrary to the Indian Constitution. The ADR also asks the Maharashtra Cabinet to reverse this decision. The Maharashtra Cabinet recently amended the CrPC which prevents filing of an FIR against a public representative without the sanction of a competent authority. The public authority would be the speaker in the case of an elected representative and the Chief Secretary in case of a bureaucrat. The decision was made applicable to the pachayats and municipalities as well. Decision is against Constitution: According to Professor Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms, "this decision of the Maharashtra cabinet goes directly against Article 14 of the Constitution of India which guarantees 'equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws' to "any person within the territory of India.' This decision obviously gives 'greater protection' to MLAs and bureaucrats, and therefore makes them 'more equal' than ordinary citizens." According to analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms of affidavits submitted by MLAs from Maharashtra at the time of election in 2014, 165 (57%) of the MLAs had declared criminal cases. Out of these 51 (31%) MLAs had declared cases where charges had been framed. Among all legislative assemblies in India, Maharashtra is second highest after Jharkhand in the proportion of MLAs with criminal cases. 3 MLAs had declared cases related to murder and attempt to murder while 11 MLAs declared cases related to crimes against women, 3 MLAs declared cases related to causing communal disharmony, 14 MLAs with cases of robbery and dacoity and 9 MLAs with cases related to kidnapping. Analysis of local body elections: Even in the recent local body elections in Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra, out of 105 winners analysed, 17 had declared criminal cases out of which 13 had declared serious criminal cases. In the Vasai Virar City Municipal elections, 17 (17%) out of 102 winners declared criminal cases wherein 12 had serious cases. While this amendment to the CrPC is not applicable to Members of Parliament, it is important to note that criminality even among MPs of Maharashtra is alarmingly high, wherein 31 (65%) out of 48 MPs have criminal cases. In view of such grave statistics regarding the composition of the Maharashtra Assembly and Municipalities, further restricting the power of filing an FIR against an elected representative would bode ill not just for legislature but for the very fabric of democracy in the country. This decision limits the accountability of elected representatives and bureaucrats and shields them from the application of law and justice. Elected representatives are repositories of public trust and the sanctity of their position in the legislature can only be upheld through scrutiny and accountability.

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