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

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

Why's Govt of India reluctant to consider battery storage system for renewal energy?

By Shankar Sharma*  If having so many small size battery energy storage system (BESS) at different locations of the grid, as in the report from Australia (a portfolio of 27 small battery storage projects across three Australian states that will total arounds 270 MWh), is considered to be techno-economically attractive in a commercially driven market such as Australia, the question that becomes a lot more relevance to Indian scenario is: why are our planners not in favour of installing such small size BESS at most of the distribution sub-stations not only to accelerate the addition of RE power capacities, but also to minimise the need for large size solar/ wind power parks, dedicated transmission lines and pumped storage plants; which will also minimise the associated technical losses.

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.

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. 

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

New MVA-INDIA MPs asked to raise Maharashtra milk farmers' demand

By Our Representative  All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national president Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS Maharashtra general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale have asked three newly-elected MPs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-INDIA) from the milk belt of Maharashtra Dr Amol Kolhe (NCP),  Bhausaheb Wakchaure (SS), and Nilesh Lanke (NCP), to take up the cause of milk farmers of Maharashtra in Parliament.  After congratulating them on their resounding victory over their BJP-NDA rivals, the AIKS leaders apprised them of the milk farmers struggle which is intensifying in the state under the leadership of the AIKS and the Milk Farmers Joint Struggle Committee, and requested them to support it. All three MPs agreed not only to support, but also to take the initiative in this struggle, an official AIKS communique claimed. Farmers in Maharashtra are currently getting as low as Rs 24-27 per litre for cow milk, which is being sold in the market for Rs 56-60 per litre, the AIKS leaders noted. The low price to farmer

Report suggests Indian democracy 'hasn't achieved' equitable economic decentralization

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram  The news that the current economic inequality in the country is worse than during British rule is unsettling. This suggests the harsh reality that our democracy has not achieved equitable economic decentralization. A recent report by Thomas Piketty and three other economists reveals shocking findings: in 2023-24, the top 1% of the wealthiest people in India hold 40% of the nation's wealth, with a 22.6% share in income.