Skip to main content

Top Indian civil rights group warns: Will approach court if Rajya Sabha amends whistleblowers Act

By Our Representative
Top advocacy group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), based in Delhi, has warned that if the Rajya Sabha passes the Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) Amendment Bill, it “may have to" move courts, along with other civil society organizations, “to challenge the constitutionality of the Bill vis-a-vis basic human right to accountable governance and the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.”
Discussions on amendment to the Act, passed in Parliament in 2011, took place in the Rajya Sabha on December 7 afternoon, and are likely to continue on December 8. The Lok Sabha has already cleared the amendments, which civil society activists believe will curb the whistleblowers’ right to expose corruption in high places in the name of national security and infringing privacy.
Taking objection to Rajya Sabha MPs cutting across party lines failing to note that the amendment Bill seeks to undermine the citizens’ “absolute right to blow the whistle on corruption, wrongdoing or the commission of offense by public servants”, CHRI’s Venkatesh Nayak said in an e-mail alert, “Importing exemptions under the RTI Act to the WBP Act wholesale is a very clever method of ensuring that no person comes forward to blow the whistle.”
Reiterating that there are in all “32 tests for whistleblowing that the NDA government would like to impose in its infinite wisdom” of amending the Bill, Nayak insisted, one should remember, “there is no bar in Article 19(2) on the right to blow the whistle on corruption, wrongdoing or any offense committed by public servants” in the 2011 Act.
“The WBP Amendment Bill seems like an attempt to introduce such an unreasonable restriction without even amending the Constitution”, Nayak said, adding, “None of the MPs who spoke on the WBP Amendment Bill pointed out clearly the difference between Section 8(1) of the RTI Act and the retrograde amendments to the WBP Act.”
He underlines, “The WBP Amendment Bill assumes that once a whistleblower complaint is made it will become publicly accessible, therefore it is necessary to protect national security, the dignity and privilege of Parliament and the Courts, commercial and trade secrets, fair investigation of and trial in crimes, intelligence informers, international relations, Cabinet secrecy and lastly personal privacy of individuals.”
Supporting the 2011 Act, Nayak says, “Nothing in the WBP Act permits the whistleblower complaint to be made public by the competent authorities. The entire scheme of the law is designed to ensure confidentiality of not only the whistleblower's identity but also the progress of the inquiry into the whistleblower complaint until a final decision is reached.”
According to Nayak, who followed the debate in Rajya Sabha, just one MP talked about the exceptions for blowing a whistle, saying that the amendment Bill is not just about safeguarding national security “but introduces 10 grounds for preventing whistleblowing.”
Yet, he underlined, “None of the MPs pointed out that the absolute bar on even making a whistleblower complaint, if they attracted the 10 grounds, was simply unacceptable in a democratic government based on the principle of the rule of law.” He commented, “Wrongdoing cannot be masked under the garb of national security or trade secrets or personal privacy.”
Worse, Nayak said, some MPs referred to the deaths of 30 whistleblowers since 2010. Suggesting that the MPs did not know the difference between whistleblowers and other RTI activists, he added, “Close to 50 RTI users and activists have lost their lives since 2005 for seeking the most mundane of information from public authorities, and this factum was worth quoting in the debate.”
Nayak explained, “To the best of my knowledge no RTI user or activist was attacked or murdered for seeking information about national security or trade secrets. They lost their lives demanding transparency in the spending of public funds, public decision making process and reasons for the inaction of the police in acting against criminals and land, sand and construction mafia.”

Comments

TRENDING

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

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.

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.