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Whistleblower – where does he stand today?
I will take up the issue of 'Lok Pal and RSS / BJP attitude' in another article in due course of time. However, the following article would expose the hypocrisy of people-in-power with relation to the poor whistleblower.

On July 21, 2010 President Obama had signed a legislation that permits whistleblowers, including foreign nationals, to apply for monetary rewards based on reporting bribery prohibited under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The Act mandates that the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) pay whistleblowers monetary rewards if they provide the US government with information that leads to the successful enforcement of the FCPA. The act is applicable even if bribes are paid in a foreign country and the whistleblower is a foreign national.

In India, the Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011 ("Act" or "Whistleblower Act") was enacted and received the assent of the President of India on May 9, 2014. It provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrong doing in government bodies, projects and offices. The wrongdoing might take the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement. The Act will also ensure punishment for false or frivolous complaints.

Salient features of this act:

It makes provisions to protect the persons making public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense by a public servant. It provides that any public servant or private individual or non-governmental organization can make such a disclosure to Central or State Vigilance Commission. The complaint must include the identity of the complainant. The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Act penalizes any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant. The Act prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.

Whistleblower Protection Act (Amendment) Bill, 2015

On 13 May 2015, the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India's bicameral Parliament) passed a Bill to amend the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 (passed by Parliament in 2014), amid resistance from the Opposition. The Bill will now be placed before the Rajya Sabha (the upper house).

The original Act has the provision that any person, including a public servant or an NGO, may make a public interest disclosure before a Competent Authority. This would apply, irrespective of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
Section 8 of the Act provided that certain matters were exempt from disclosure, such as:
Information likely to prejudicially affect the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence as might involve the disclosure of proceedings of the Cabinet of the Union Government or any Committee of the Cabinet; as might involve the disclosure of proceedings of the Cabinet of the State Government or any Committee of that Cabinet.

Behind the claptrap, this BJP proposed amendment would help dilute the limited minimal effect that the Original Act was supposed to exert.

The amendment bill adds other grounds on which information is exempt from disclosure, such as 'Information relating to commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property', the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless such information has been disclosed to the complainant under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005; information which is available to a person in his fiduciary capacity or relationship, unless such information has been disclosed to the complainant under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Bill suggests that information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; information, which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, unless such information has been disclosed to the complainant under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The bill shrinks the ambit of desired results and it would create huge area of exceptions that could turn an already weak tiger into a toothless tiger.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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