Under continuous threat, whistleblowers need more legal protection

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 27, 2015 02:00 IST

The Madhya Pradesh Examination Board (MPEB) scam, which broke in 2009, is turning out to be like an Agatha Christie crime novel. With several key people involved in the case dying in mysterious circumstances and many others getting death threats, the suspicion that influential people are involved in the scam is becoming stronger by the day. When the scam broke, it seemed that it was a racket of candidates doling out money to touts for a seat in a medical and engineering college or a job in a government department. But soon it became clear that it was more than an exam and a recruitment scam but that scamsters even employed imposters to write test papers, manipulated sitting arrangements and supplied forged answer sheets. A special task force is now probing the case and a special investigation team is monitoring the probe.

Other than throwing light on the involvement of those from influential people in this scam and their ability to create obstacles in the path of the investigators, the case and the plight of the whistleblowers also underline the fact that India needs a law that gives legal protection to those who have the courage to speak out against such wrongs. The original Whistleblowers Protection Act was passed in 2011, but it is not operational because its rules have not been regularised. In fact, it’s been almost 12 years since Satyendra Dubey’s killing and during this time nearly 50 whistleblowers have lost their lives. Dubey was a whistleblower in the road building scam.

What is more tragic is that instead of framing the rules, the government is trying to dilute the law and tabled a Bill to amend the Act earlier this month in the Lok Sabha. The amendments were passed in the Lok Sabha but will face hurdles in the Rajya Sabha because the Opposition wants the government to send it to a parliamentary standing panel. According to the amendment, whistleblowers will not be allowed to reveal documents classified under the Official Secrets Act of 1923, even if the purpose is to disclose acts of corruption, misuse of power or criminal activities. The proposed amendments allow whistleblowers to disclose some kinds of information only if they have been obtained through a Right to Information query. Such roadblocks completely defeat the purpose of the law and whatever arguments the government has, they must not compromise on the right of a whistleblower to avail of protection.

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