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Stormy debate likely on Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill in RS

NEW DELHI, July 16:
One of the most important bill that is proposed to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the Monsoon Session is the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill.
The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 11, 2015 and passed in that House on May 13. The Bill is currently pending in the Upper House.
It amends the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 and provides mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful use of power or discretion or criminal offence by public servants.
According to experts, the Bill prohibits reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any ten categories of information, including information related to economic, scientific interests and security of India; Cabinet proceedings; intellectual property and that received in a fiduciary capacity.
The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 was enacted to enable any person to disclose to a Competent Authority, acts of corruption or wilful misuse of power or discretion or criminal offences by a public servant.
Regards the Competent Authority, it is the Prime Minister or chief Minister in the case of Ministers, the Speaker or Chairman for Members of Parliament or state legislatures, the Chief justice of High Court for District Court Judges and the Central or State Vigilance Commission for Government servants.
Meanwhile, the Bill amends this provision to prohibit a person from disclosing information related to corruption by public servants if it falls under 10 categories.
These categories include information related to sovereignty, scientific, economic interests and security of India, proceeding of Council of Ministers, breach of privilege of legislatures, intellectual property and an investigation process.
While the 2013 proposed amendments prohibited only two categories of information from being disclosed under the Act (i) related to sovereignty, strategic, scientific or economic interests of India, foreign relations or incitement of an offence and (ii) proceedings of Council of Minister, however, the 2015 Bill prohibits disclosure of 10 categories of information.
The Bill also states that if the Competent Authority receives a public interest disclosure that falls under any of the 10 prohibited categories of information, he will refer it to a Government authorised authority.
This authority will decide whether the disclosure contains any information that is prohibited under the Bill and this decision will be binding on the Competent Authority.
However, the Bill is silent on the minimum qualifications or designation of the Government authority. The independence of this authority may be at risk if the authority id junior in rank to the public servant against whom the disclosure is made, experts said. The Monsoon Session is beginning tomorrow and will end on August 11. (UNI)


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