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More power for whistleblowers bill?

delhi Updated: Jun 10, 2011 01:37 IST
Saroj Nagi

A parliamentary panel has recommended that ministers, the higher judiciary, security organisations, defence and intelligence forces and regulatory authorities be brought under the whistleblowers protection bill to check corruption and willful misuse of power.

"No organisation of the government should be left out from public scrutiny and accountability provided for in the bill," said Jayanthi Natarajan, who chaired the standing committee of personnel, public grievances, law and justice that examined the whistleblowers protection bill.

The report, submitted to Rajya Sabha chairman on Thursday, noted that the RTI Act, 2005 does not exempt the armed forces nor does it completely exempt secularity or intelligence organisations.

In casting the net wide while covering central, state and public sector employees, the panel rejected the contention that certain agencies be kept out of the proposed law, which seeks to encourage disclosure of information in public interest.

Introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2010, the importance and relevance of the whistleblowers bill has increased in the backdrop of a growing outcry against corruption and the demand for stringent laws and mechanisms to deal with it.

As the bill deals with corruption and transparency in public life, Natarajan hoped it would be in harmony with other related laws, including the proposed lokpal bill.

The whistleblowers bill, among other things, calls for a regular mechanism to receive complaints of corruption, fast-tracking such cases, building safeguards against victimisation and frivolous complaints and protecting whistleblowers so that the identity of the complainant is not compromised with "at any cost and any level" unless it is with the person's written consent.

As the disclosure made is in public interest, the burden to ensure that the complainant is not victimised lies with the competent authority, the panel said.

It also seeks similar protection for witnesses supporting the whistleblowers and calls for severe punishment for those exposing the identity of people disclosing information by giving the CVC powers of a civil court.

The authority is also supposed to give reasons for dismissing a complaint and a reasonable hearing if the complainant is not satisfied with the dismissal of the complaint or outcome of the inquiry.

It also suggested that the rules provide a reasonable time limit for conducting the inquiry by the competent authority.

It calls for an effective mechanism to ensure compliance with authority's orders.