Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cabinet approves bill to protect whistleblowers

Cabinet approves bill to protect whistleblowers
Times of India

The much awaited legislation on protection for whistleblowers got the go-ahead from the Union Cabinet on Monday. The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, provides the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) powers of a civil court to enable it punish and penalise people revealing the identity of whistleblowers.

As per the Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament, the onus will be on the CVC to protect the identity of citizens who provide information about the misuse of governmental authority and funds.

While the CVC will be empowered to take action against those who reveal the identity of the whistleblowers or those who threaten them, those who make frivolous complaints will also be liable to be punished. The Bill also proposes that no court can interfere in the case and can have any powers over the decision made by CVC.

The law, which was conceived in the wake of the gruesome murder of NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey who complained against corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral project, was supported by the Law Commission in its 2002 report. The apex court had also asked the government to come out with a proper legislation to protect whistleblowers.

The Bill, which has provisions to prevent victimisation of whistleblowers and shield them from so-called disciplinary action, will cover central, state and public sector employees. It has clauses which provide for fine and penalties to people, who punish those exposing corruption. The CVC will be the nodal authority to handle complaints against the state, central government or PSU employees.

In the recent past, there has also been a rise in the number of attacks on RTI activists across the country. In the latest incident, activist Amit Jethwa was shot outside the high court in Ahmedabad last month. Jethwa had named BJP's Junagadh MP Dinu Solanki while exposing illegal mining in the Gir forest area in Gujarat.

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