The Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have agreed to keep matters related to national security away from controversy, by excluding them from the key anti-graft whistleblowers protection and Lokpal Bills pending in Parliament.
The two sides also appear to be in agreement for extending immunity to the National Security Advisor and PMO officials, proposed for the Prime Minister in the Lokpal Bill, in matters related to foreign relations, internal/external security and atomic energy.The whistleblowers protection as well as Lokpal bills have already been passed by Lok Sabha, and are pending in Rajya Sabha.
The government will move an official amendment to The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, commonly known as the Whistleblowers Bill, when it would be introduced in Rajya Sabha. The amendment would make it clear that “no complaint will be entertained in matters involving the national security, sovereignty and integrity of India”.
HT has learnt that the minister of state in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), V Narayanasamy, has discussed the matter with leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley.
The original Whistleblowers Protection Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha in 2010, had stated that “no public interest disclosure shall be accepted against defence, police and intelligence personnel”. However, a year later, faced with opposition by the civil society, it accepted a parliamentary panel’s recommendation and allowed corruption complaints in defence-related matters. However, the government has now excluded it again.
In a related development, top government officials have informed the Rajya Sabha select committee, which is examining the lokpal bill, that it would require an amendment to exclude PMO officials from its ambit in matters related to “international relations, external/internal security, public order, atomic energy and space”.
Responding to a pointed query on whether the national security advisor and the principal secretary to the Prime Minister should be called to answer questions on subjects mentioned above by the lokpal, the officials conceded that the existing provisions of the bill did not provide them any immunity, and there was a need to amend such a provision.
“This provision needs a modification, so the PMO secretariat gets protection in these matters from the lokpal,” the government informed the panel. Opposition members on the panel agreed, stating that there was a dire need to amend it.