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New law offers little security to crusaders

A new law aimed at protecting whistleblowers will not secure most Right To Information activists targeted for exposing corruption across India.

delhi Updated: Aug 26, 2010 23:39 IST
HT Correspondent

A new law aimed at protecting whistleblowers will not secure most Right To Information activists targeted for exposing corruption across India.

The law — introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday — covers only central government officials, who constitute less than 10 per cent of the total public force in India.

And, the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, provides protection only when the person has lodged a complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission, mandated to protect the whistleblowers.

"In most cases, the RTI activist is threatened as soon as he or she files the application," said Nikhil Dey, who has been exposing corruption in rural Rajasthan by conducting social audits using the RTI Act, 2005.

"Most activists will never get a chance to lodge a complaint with CVC whose jurisdiction is only central government officials and not district levels officials involved in corruption that affects common person."

The proposed law, which had come under severe criticism since the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in Gujarat for exposing an illegal mining racket, gives no powers to the CVC to provide police protection to individuals who lodge complaints, in case, they feel threatened. Meaning that the CVC can use its powers only when a person lodges its complaint with it.

The draft gives the CVC powers to send a person to jail for up to three years and impose a fine of up to Rs 50,000 for revealing the identity of the complainant.

"An organisation (CVC), which in past had revealed names of the complaint cannot be trusted for protecting whistleblowers," said Prashant Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer.