Skip to main content

Letter to Modi: 18 whistleblowers killed, as govt refuses to implement Act to protect them

Counterview Desk
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding non-implementation of the Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) Act, passed 5 years ago, on February 21, 2014, has said that government indifference stands in sharp contrast to scores of whistleblowers being threatened, attacked and even killed.
Signed by senior Right to Information (RTI) activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog, and Pradip Pradhan, the letter regrets, Government of India, instead of operationalizing the Act, wants to dilute it. Thus, among other provisions, it proposes removal of the clause which safeguards whistleblowers from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for disclosing information as part of their complaint.

Text of the letter:

The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) is deeply anguished by the failure of the Government of India to operationalise the Whistle Blowers Protection Act (WBP Act), which was passed by Parliament five years ago on February 21, 2014.
The WBP Act provides a statutory framework for concealing the identity of whistleblowers and protecting them against victimization. It establishes a mechanism to receive, and inquire into, complaints against public servants relating to: offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; wilful misuse of power or discretion; or attempt to commit or commission of a criminal offence.
The demand for a statutory mechanism to protect whistleblowers started in 2003, with the murder of Satyendra Dubey, who blew the whistle on corruption in the National Highways Authority of India. The WBP Act was finally passed on the last day of the winter session of the Rajya Sabha in 2014, after a 20 day long dharna outside offices of political parties and the Parliament by whistleblowers, their families and citizens, including RTI users.
In order to operationalise the law, the government was required to frame rules and notify the date of the Act coming into force. The failure of the government to operationalise and implement the law has undermined the will of Parliament to provide statutory protection to whistleblowers. In the last 5 years, scores of people have been killed and many more attacked and victimised for coming forward to report on corruption and wrongdoing.
These people could have been afforded protection had the government implemented the law. In 2018 alone, 18 people were killed for blowing the whistle on corruption on the basis of information accessed under the RTI Act.
Instead of operationalising the WBP Act, an amendment bill was introduced in Parliament in 2015 to dilute several key provisions of the law. The amendment bill was brought to the Lok Sabha without any public debate or consultation on its contents. The text of the amendment bill was made public only when it was introduced in Lok Sabha, where the bill was passed hurriedly, despite demands from several Members of Parliament to have it referred to a deliberative committee.
In the Rajya Sabha, several MPs moved a proposal to have the bill referred to a select committee, however, this demand was also ignored. The amendment bill, among other provisions, proposes removal of the clause which safeguards whistleblowers from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for disclosing information as part of their complaint.
Offences under the OSA are punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years. Threat of such stringent action would deter even bonafide whistleblowers and defeat the very purpose of the law, which is to encourage people to come forward and report wrongdoing.
The government has repeatedly cited the pendency of the proposed amendments as the reason for non-implementation of the WBP Act. Proposed amendments to a law cannot be a justification for not implementing it. In any case, if it was felt that certain amendments were required, a proper consultative process could have been adopted within and outside Parliament to address concerns of citizens and MPs regarding the contentious amendments proposed in the bill. The amendment bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha, will now lapse with the dissolution of the lower House with the upcoming general elections.
Brutal attacks on whistleblowers and RTI users in the country have highlighted the vulnerability of those who dare to show truth to power. It is the moral obligation of the state to protect these conscience keepers who, at great risk, expose corruption and wrongdoing in the system. Unless proper systems are put in place to empower whistleblowers by offering them protection, and ensuring that their complaints are effectively investigated into and acted upon, corruption will continue to thrive with impunity in society.
It is most unfortunate that the government has failed to implement the WBP Act, which is an integral part of any effective anti-corruption framework. The non-implementation of the law has significantly weakened the fight against corruption.
We urge you to immediately ensure that appropriate steps are taken to operationalise the WBP Act.

Comments

TRENDING

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

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.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.

Satellite data 'identify' Gujarat's Mundra among 6 of India's top air pollution hotspots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study, which analyzes data between February 2018 and May 2019, obtained from Tropomi, a satellite instrument on board the Dutch Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, has warned that coal-fired power plants and industrial clusters are India’s “worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) hotspots” contributing hugely to air pollution in Sonbhadra-Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher in Odisha, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Mundra in Gujarat and Durgapur in West Bengal.

Campaign 'victory': Bihar considers ban on asbestos, carcinogenic to humans

Counterview Desk
In a major victory for anti-asbestos campaigners, the Bihar government has said that it is considering an immediate ban on use of asbestos&based products of all kinds in the state. Speaking in the state assembly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar insisted on the need to taking a strong policy decision against carcinogenic asbestos factories.
A communication, meanwhile, has been forwarded  to the health secretary by Kumar, referring to concerns of Dr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) "on hazardous asbestos factories to the health department." Krishna said that the health department should looking into the demand for the creation of a register of victims of asbestos related diseases.
He added, the government should also create a register asbestos laden buildings and products in general and a probe on the health status of workers, their families and communities linked to and in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories…