Skip to main content

Lok Sabha nod to 'regressive' whistleblower bill: Complainant against Government functionary required to pass 32 tests

By Our Representative
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the controversial Whistleblower Protection Amendment Bill, 2015, which, say critics, would require a whistleblower to go through as many as 32 different tests before a complaint is opened up for inquiry by the "competent authority" in government. Says top right to information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak, the bill's "regressive proposals" would "effectively prevent most whistleblower complaints from even being inquired."
In fact, he says, most people may not even come forward to the blow the whistle on corruption or wrongdoing for "fear" of prosecution by the government under the archaic Officials Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. This is because the bill takes away the "immunity from prosecution of genuine whistleblowers", as a result of which, "any whistleblower inside or outside government is in danger of being prosecuted under the OSA."
According to Nayak, even on the "slightest doubt" about whether the whistleblower complaint attracts the grounds mentioned in Section 4(1) -- containing information exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act, 2005 -- it would be referred to an "authorised officer" in the department complained against.
This would put the complaint to a "32-way test", and only after the the authorised officer certifies that any of the grounds mentioned in Section 4(1) are attracted, "he/she may issue a certification which will effectively bar the chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) from even launching an inquiry.
"Given the track record of the CVC, it would not be surprising if it would send every whistleblower complaint to the concerned department for vetting before launching an inquiry, saving itself the trouble of applying the 32 tests", Nayak said.
Giving details of the 32 grounds under Section 4(1), Nayak says, seven are relating to national security, three to courts, two to Parliament and State Legislatures, three to trade secrets and intellectual property rights, six to law enforcement, three to fair investigation and trial procedures, three to Cabinet papers, three to privacy of a natural person, one each to fiduciary relationships and foreign relations.
The Opposition Congress MPs walked out of the House after its demand to refer the bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for detailed deliberation was rejected. The bill was approved through a voice vote. Now it will go to the Rajya Sabha for approval in July-August.
The Union minister of state for personnel, reasoning in favour of the bill, said it was a measure of "increased transparency" if the Prime Minister as a 'competent authority' is required to take clearance from a bureaucrat to inquire into a whistleblower complaint against a minister. Nayak comments, this in fact is "probably the first instance anywhere in the world of a government undermining the authority of its own head to inquire into whistleblower complaints against his own colleagues."
In effect, he says, the bill takes away a whistleblower's power "to complain about acts of corruption, willful abuse of power or willful misuse of discretion or offences committed by the Prime Minister (at the Centre) or any of the Chief Ministers (in the States)", adding, "There must be a mechanism for this in the manner provided in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act."
In such scheme of things, Nayak -- who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative -- underlines, the Lokpal (the national level apex anti-corruption and grievance redress agency), to be established under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, "will have no role to play in protection of whistleblowers unless the Central and State government notify them as competent authorities."

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.

Election Commission suffering from worst-ever "credibility crisis": Ex-bureaucrats

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of ex-bureaucrats have lamented ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing various violations of the model code of conduct, and pointing towards how ECI has taken little action, the letter asks the President to tell ECI to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned.”