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Cabinet may consider changes to Whistle-blowers` Bill

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 22:26

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet is likely to consider amendments to the Whistle-blowers` Protection Bill to keep matters impacting national security and foreign relations out of its ambit.

The bill seeks to set up a regular mechanism to encourage persons to disclose information on corruption or wilful misuse of power by public servants, including ministers.

Though the official amendments were moved in the Rajya Sabha last year, the bill could not come up for proper discussion and passage. It came up for consideration on August 14 last year but the House was adjourned due to the demise of Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Now the Ministry of Personnel is seeking the Union Cabinet`s post facto approval to the official amendments. The Cabinet will meet here on Thursday.

One of the key amendments include "clear prohibition" of disclosures prejudicially affecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country. It also bars disclosure of information which could compromise strategic, scientific and economic interests of the country and affect foreign relations.

The Whistle-blowers` Protection Bill, 2012 has already been approved by the Lok Sabha without a debate in 2011.

Matters related to corruption and human rights violations in defence forces and intelligence agencies will also be covered by the bill.

An amendment moved by the government in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of Parliament in 2011 sought to exempt the Special Protection Group from the purview of the proposed law in view of the sensitive nature of the organisation.

The Defence Ministry has agreed that they should be given protection only on certain issues while on matters like corruption and human rights violation, the Whistle-Blowers Protection Act will apply.

The bill also provides for punishment for disclosing the
identity of the whistle blower.

At the same time, if there is a frivolous complaint given by whistle-blowers, there is adequate provision for taking action against them.

The bill seeks to provide "adequate protection to persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of discretion which causes demonstrable loss to the government or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant."

As per provisions of the bill, before closing any complaint of corruption, the competent authority will have to discuss the matter with the complainant.

After the passage of the bill in the Upper House, it would travel back to the Lower House in view of the amendments.

The Whistle-blowers Protection Bill is part of the "bouquet" of four measures introduced by the government to tackle corruption following the agitation by Anna Hazare in 2011.

The other three bills are the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill to deal with corruption in higher judiciary, Lokpal Bill and a bill on citizens` charter to provide timely services to the common man and punishment for those who deny such services.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 22:25

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