Whistleblowers' Bill Likely to Face Rough Weather in Rajya Sabha

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File photo of Parliament House.

New Delhi: 

The amendments to the Whistleblowers' Protection Act that have been cleared by the Lok Sabha is under attack. The opposition has warned that the bill will be blocked in Rajya Sabha, where the government is in minority.

The law 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.

Activists have now criticised the amendments, saying they dilute the provisions of the law, making it virtually toothless.

Under the new amendments, there will be no protection 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.

Protection will not be given in case the whistleblower was the guardian of the information he provided. Only information obtained through RTI will be counted 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.

"The government is going back on its basic moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers," said Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. "It is important to operationlise the law, but if it is toothless, it's not going to help whistleblowers, who put their lives at risk".

Last year, despite the President's approval, the implementation of the whistleblowers protection law was delayed.

The government says 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," Union Minister Jitendra Singh has said.

Opposition parties want the bill to go to a standing committee. "We won't let the bill go through the Rajya Sabha in this form," said Congress lawmaker Gaurav Gogoi.

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