Skip to main content

"Atrocious" provision in new whistleblowers amendment Bill: Officials Secrets Act to be invoked on seeking information

By Our Representative
Senior activists have taken strong exception to the Government of India proposal to amend the #Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 (WBP Act), introduced as an amendment bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday. Right to information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak has said, while till now the government refused to implement the law, which aims to create a statutory mechanism for whistleblowing about corruption, abuse or misuse of power or authority, in a fresh move, it is coming up with several "unreasonable restrictions on whistleblowing."
Chatacterising it as the #NDA government's yet another move to "outdo everything that the previous #UPA government did between 2004 and 2014", Nayak says, the Centre is seeking to dilute Section 4(1), which is a "substantive provision that permits whistleblowing about wrongdoing in a public authority."
According to him, "Under the original Act a whistleblower was immunised from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing in government." However, the Amendment Bill takes away this immunity -- "no officer or #RTI user may come forward to blow the whistle for fear of prosecution under the OSA."
Pointing out that "this amendment trashes the principle of ‘safe alternative to silence’ which should underpin all whistleblower protection laws", Nayak says, now, "a whistleblower will be prevented from making a complaint on all grounds under which information can be refused under the RTI Act -- privacy, trade secrets, foreign relations, fiduciary relationship etc."
Explains the activist, "Unless the whistleblower is able to prove that he/she obtained his evidence of wrongdoing under the RTI Act, he/she can be punished for attaching such records to his whistleblower complaint -- so no officer or RTI user will come forward to blow the whistle on wrongdoing unless he obtains the information after the concerned Information Commission orders its disclosure in public interest".
Then there is another amendment, to Section 6, which would prevent any person from even giving evidence or rendering any kind of assistance to the competent authorities under certain specified circumstances. "The competent authorities will have no option but to drop such whistleblower complaints", comments Nayak.
Further, says Nayak, in yet another amendment, "even an Under Secretary grade officer, if appointed as the designated authority, can in theory, prevent the PM or the CM from ordering an inquiry into a whistleblower complaint if he/she certifies that the matter relates to ‘national security’," calling it a "ridiculous" amendment to Section 5.
Nayak, who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, demands, "All righteous minded citizens who share a vision of a corruption-free India must demand that this amendment Bill be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice for detailed deliberation so that citizens may provide inputs to the MPs as to why the major amendments will defeat the very purpose of the WBP Act."

Comments

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.