Parliament Nod to Whistleblowers' Protection Bill - The New Indian Express

Parliament Nod to Whistleblowers' Protection Bill

Published: 21st February 2014 07:47 PM

Last Updated: 21st February 2014 07:47 PM

A bill to provide for setting up a regular mechanism to encourage persons to disclose information on corruption or wilful misuse of power by public servants, including ministers, was passed by Parliament today.

The Whistleblowers' Protection Bill also seeks to provide "adequate protection to persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of discretion which causes demonstrable loss to the government or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant."

While the measures set out the procedure to inquire into the disclosures and provides adequate safeguards against victimisation of the whistleblower, it also seeks to provide punishment for false or frivolous complaints.

In his reply, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said the legislation would supplement the RTI Act in checking corruption in the country.

He said based on some recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee and other members, who had sought to bring some amendments. However, since it was session's last day, he was not pushing them as the bill would lapse.

"But appropriate steps will be taken to address concerns of members within constitutional methods in 10 days," he said.

The bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2011 and was taken up by the Upper House in 2012 for consideration. However, it could not be passed because of the death of Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

To a suggestion that steps should be taken to protect those who had blown the whistle on corrupt practices prior to the bill being passed, Narayanasamy said the government has already brought a resolution in 2004 under which the CVC was empowered to protect the whistleblowers.

The definition of 'disclosure' has also been amended to include wilful misuse of power or wilful misuse of discretion which leads to demonstrable loss to the government or demonstrable gain to the public servant or any third party.

The definition of competent authority to which a complaint can be made has also been expanded.

Narayanasamy said they would write to Jammu and Kashmir government about enactment of similar legislation after a suggestion was made in this regard by Karan Singh (Cong).

The Bill does not cover the state due the special status enjoyed by it.

Singh had said that there was "no lack of corrupt cases in Jammu and Kashmir as well".

Talking about some of the provisions of the bill, he said unless the complainant seeks for, name of the accused would not be disclosed. Mediapersons, he said, are protected under the bill.

He parried a question by Prakash Javadekar (BJP) on the government's failure to investigate cases related to cash-for-vote scam, saying the matter was sub judice.

On concerns expressed by Tapan Sen (CPI-M) about corrupt practices in the corporate sector and lack of protection to whistleblowers there, he said the government was equally concerned about the issue.

Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said though corruption cases in the defence forces should not be tolerated, there should not be any loophole which forces amenable to India could use to compromise India's security and weaken the country's fight against terrorism.

D Raja (CPI) suggested that private sector be included under the ambit of the bill and no arbitrary exemption should be extended to any office including the PMO.

He said provisions should be made to provide compensation to any whistleblower facing victimisation. He was supported by Baishnab Parida (BJD).

Chandan Mitra (BJP) suggested that an award be instituted to felicitate whistleblowers.

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