Amendment proposed in the whistle blowers bill
The government has proposed amendment in Whistle-blower’s Protection Bill by including the exemption section of the Right to Information (RTI) Act that offer immunity from disclosure of information. The Whistle-blower’s Protection Bill is likely to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha soon.
Activists have criticised the government move for:
- The manner in which the changes were introduced calling them as secretive.
- Neither the government nor the Rajya Sabha secretariat uploaded the text of the amendments on its website.
- Ventakesh Nayak said that copying the exemption section of the RTI Act would ensure that whistle-blowers would not be able to attach any evidence to their complaints.
- It would defeat the very purpose of the proposed Whistle-blower’s Protection Bill. For example, section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; the RTI Act exempts disclosure of information on the ground that the disclosure is prejudicial to the country’s “sovereignty and integrity”. Such a broad and vague exemption clause would discourage revelations from any government department.
- The proposed bill says that the cabinet papers and notes can’t be attached by a whistle-blower if they are being considered for a cabinet decision.
- Nikhil Dey of the National Campaign for the People’s Right To Information (NCPRI) has said that whistle-blowers are critical for a country. If they are throttled in this manner, citizens would never know the truth.
Reports citing unnamed senior officials of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) say that the revelations by American Edward Snowden about the work of NSA has led to the introduction of new clauses in the bill.Taking suo motu cognisance of the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty on January 13, 2010, a public interest litigation for providing security to activists/ whistleblowers was supposed to come before the Bombay high court. On August 7, a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice K R Shriram heard the arguements and Justice Kanade commented "If government can give protection to people who don't need it, they can give them also."