Whistle Blowers Protection Act: Time to give it more teeth

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Whistle Blowers Protection Act should be enacted soon.
It was the NDA Government, which first talked of bringing a law to protect whistle-blowers who lose their precious lives in trying to eliminate corruption from country's bureaucracy. But till date the law has not come in to force and the death toll of such crusaders is rising year after year.

What is Whistle Blowers Act?

• Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 was formerly known as "The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill.

• It is an Act of the Parliament of India which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants.

• The Act also seeks to protect the whistleblowers i.e., a person who exposes alleged wrongdoing (fraud, corruption or mismanagement) in government bodies, projects and offices.

• The Act will also ensure punishment for false or frivolous complaints.

When and why was this law introduced?

• The law owes its origins to demands by anti-graft activists in wake of the murder of NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey in Bihar in 2003.

• He was found dead in Bihar in November, 2003 after he had complained about corruption in highway construction in a confidential letter to the Prime Minister's Office which was leaked.

• The Act was approved by the Cabinet of India and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011.

• The Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President's nod on May 9, 2014.

• But, till now, the Act has not come into force.

What is its aim?

• The main objective of the act is to safeguard those exposing corruption or malpractice by public servants.

• Another aim is to initiate public participation to help keep corruption in check.

Why this Act is needed? 

• To protect the whistleblowers.

• To encourage people to make public interest disclosures.

• To prevent whistleblowers from victimization in the form of threats, attacks and murders which are continuously on rise.

Some drawbacks of the Act

• The Whistleblowers Bill only covers the wrongdoings in Public sector and keeps the private sector out of its ambit.

• The act also misses out on mentioning, what will happen to a case if the inquiry cannot be completed within three months (which is the maximum time period given to address the case).

• This bill does not permit a whistleblower to publicise the allegations of wrong doing through the media even if the concerned authorities fail to take adequate action on a particular complaint.

Death toll of whistleblowers on the rise

• As per data presented by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) over the last eight years - ever since RTI Act came into effect - Maharashtra has seen 53 attacks on RTI activists, including nine cases of murder.

• Gujarat comes second with 34 attacks, including 3 murders.

• Delhi, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka follow with over 10 reported attacks on RTI activists during the same period.

• Data also reveals that 32 alleged murders and two suicides were directly linked with RTI applications filed.

What is the present status?

• The Act has yet not been enforced and since the time the act was passed by Parliament, at least three more people have allegedly been killed for exposing corruption.

• The National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) has written to the Prime Minister urging the government to immediately promulgate rules for the enactment of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act.

• The NCPRI has also drafted model rules for the Whistle Blowers Protection Act and has sent a copy of these rules to the PM and the concerned minister.

• It is being feared by these activists that any further delay could endanger more lives.

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