The proposed amendments to the Whistle Blowers Act defeat the very purpose of the legislation. Discuss. (250 words)

The proposed amendments to the Whistle Blowers Act defeat the very purpose of the legislation. Discuss. (250 words)

Approach:

  • Introduce with why the Whistle Blowers Act was introduced
  • Briefly note some key provisions of the Act
  • Highlight the provisions in the Amendment Bill and discuss how they dilute the intention behind the Act
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

Whistle-blowers are people who bring to the notice of the concerned authorities the allegations against a public servant of corruption, wilful misuse of power or commission of a criminal offence. The murder of some civil servants who highlighted corrupt practices led to demand for a legislation to protect whistle-blowers. The Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) Act, 2014 was thus enacted to protect the whistle-blowers.

The Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) Act, 2014 had provisions to conceal the identity of a whistle-blower, broad definition of a whistle-blower to include even NGOs and private persons, as well as provisions for protection against victimisation of the complainant or anyone who renders assistance in an inquiry.

The WBP Act, though passed in 2014, has not been operationalised. In 2015, an amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament by the government.

The provisions of The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 include:

  • No immunity under OSA: Unlike the WBP Act, the amendment Bill seeks to remove immunity provided to whistle-blowers who disclose any such information which is liable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
  • No inquires in some cases despite whistle-blowing: The amendment Bill says that complaints by whistle-blowers containing information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty, integrity, security or economic interests of the state shall not be inquired into.
  • Whistle-blowing on some information if only obtained under RTI: As per amendment Bill, certain categories of information relating to relates to commercial confidence, trade secrets etc. cannot form part of the disclosure made by a whistle-blower, unless the information has been obtained under the RTI Act.

The amendments proposed in the new Bill would fundamentally dilute the law. The rationale given was that the amendments largely seek to bring the WBP Act in line with the RTI Act. Conflating the two laws completely different objectives is inappropriate and would preclude genuine whistle-blowing in several scenarios, like in cases where a government official comes across evidence of wrongdoing (in the normal course of their work) and does not need the RTI Act to access the information.

Way forward:

The government needs to immediately promulgate the rules and implement WBP Act 2014 to offer protection to whistleblowers. To ensure that sensitive information pertaining to national security and integrity is not compromised, the government could have proposed additional safeguards for such disclosures. For example, complaints in such cases can be filed only in sealed envelopes to the competent authorities.

Subjects : Editorials

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