Seven months after the Centre announced in the Rajya Sabha its intention to introduce a comprehensive Whistleblowers Protection Bill, the bill has made no progress.
Nevertheless, whistleblowers in Maharashtra at least will now be protected not only from the anti-social elements they are expose to but also — to a certain extent — from the criminal proceedings they invite while exposing an irregularity.
In an interim order passed last week during proceedings initiated following Pune-based RTI activist Satish Shetty’s murder, the Bombay High Court directed the state government to set up a special committee to identify social activists, whistleblowers and social organisations that have received any threat from any anti-social elements.
A division bench of Justice FI Rebello and Justice Amjad Sayed also directed the state government to frame a transparent procedure and guidelines to identify genuine persons and organisations.
The special committee will, in terms of the high court order, also review all pending criminal complaints and investigations against such activists, whistleblowers and social organisations on the basis of the parameters laid down in the guidelines.
The court also directed the state to provide immediate police protection to whistleblowers, social activists and organisations on receipt of their applications seeking police protection.
The interim measure is taken in view of the fact that Shetty was murdered near his Talegaon Dabhade house while his application seeking police protection was pending.
The court also asked the state government to set up, within three months, an appropriate mechanism for a quick response to complaints filed by social activists and whistleblowers about a threat or the use of force against them. Police officers above the rank of deputy superintendent or assistant commissioner of police can conduct an investigation into such complaints.
Shetty, who reportedly exposed irregularities in several land dealings in Pune district, was stabbed to death on January 13. Pune rural police have arrested six people, including a lawyer, in connection with the murder.
Following the high court decision to monitor the investigation, the state government has transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.