The amendments to the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act that have been recently cleared by the Lok Sabha is under attack. The opposition has warned that the Bill will be blocked in Rajya Sabha, reports NDTV
The Whistleblower Act is meant to empower and protect people who report corruption – who are usually public servants, non-profits, or individuals. It was drawn up after several whistleblowers were either murdered or died in mysterious circumstances.
Under the new amendments, there will be no protection accorded to whistleblowers who provide information that are under the Official Secrets Act. The Act covers classified documents of the government, including defence deals, and the information has been made off-limits.
Only information obtained through RTI will have cover and no protection will be given for information that’s beyond its ambit. Besides, information that can be termed as “unwarranted invasion of privacy” of an individual will also not be covered.
Activists have now criticised the amendments saying they dilute the provisions of the law, making it virtually toothless. Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information said:
“The government is going back on its basic moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers. It is important to operationalise the law, but if it is toothless, it’s not going to help whistleblowers, who put their lives at risk.”
But the government is of a different view. Union Minister Jitendra Singh said:
“The amendments will help protect whistleblowers. There might be differences in how each one of us sees it and what should be the parameters or the extent of safeguard.” In a highly corrupt country such as India, where it already difficult for anyone to obtain information even under the RTI, such repressive moves will only create a subservient society open to exploitation by those misusing their power.