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karira

CVC seeks powers to stop victimisation of whistleblowers

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karira

As reported by PTI in hindustantimes.com on 25 July 2010:

CVC seeks powers to stop victimisation of whistleblowers - Hindustan Times

 

CVC seeks powers to stop victimisation of whistleblowers

 

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is seeking greater powers to ensure that individuals who expose corruption by government officials and departments are not victimised, hounded or harassed by the bureaucracy. The Commission says it needs "enforcement powers" to protect whistleblowers from harassment. The CVC is a designated authority to receive complaints and to ensure adequate protection to the whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Resolution (PIDPI). "One of the limitations faced by the Commission under the resolution is that the Commission has not been provided with enforcement powers nor has it been made mandatory for the administrative authorities to comply with CVC's directives to protect whistleblowers from harassment," Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha told PTI in an interview.

 

"These limitations have constrained the effectiveness of the Whistleblower Resolution," he said.

 

Not surprisingly, whistleblowers attract the ire of the departments they expose. Sinha said that in the past the CVC had intervened in several cases to prevent "inconvenient transfer, denial of promotion or other forms of harassment to whistleblowers".

 

On being asked about the CVC's effectiveness in curbing corruption, he said, "The Central Vigilance Commission is only a recommendatory body which advises suitable disciplinary action against government officials. It is for the administrative authority to impose punishment effectively and promptly."

 

The CVC's concern for the well being of whistleblowers stems from the fact that many whistleblowers have in the recent past been harassed for exposing corruption. Some were even killed, the latest being Gujarat-based Right to Information (RTI) activist, Amit Jethwa, who had filed a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest.

 

Jethwa was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen opposite Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad on July 20. Amit's father had allegedly blamed BJP MP from Jundagadh Dinu Solanki for his son's killing.

 

Also killed in Maharashtra a few months ago were RTI activists Satish Shetty and Datta Patil, who had accused politicians and bureaucrats of involvement in land scams and corruption.

 

An ongoing case being heard by the Punjab and Haryana high court relates to the police harassment of Samdeep Mohan Varghese, allegedly at the behest of a private company he had accused of illegal practices.

 

Sinha said that the "CVC is the authority to handle whistleblowers' complaints and provide protection to them. There is a special cell in the Commission to deal with such cases of harassment". But no enforcement powers.

 

Former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti however blames the CVC's failure to protect whistleblowers on the "dysfunctional" attitude of senior officers of the CVC.

 

In a recent letter to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Justice Lahoti remarked that every whistleblower who risked his life to approach the CVC had "come to grief", even as the culprits roamed free.

 

But RTI activist and Magsaysay Awardee Arvind Kerjriwal agrees with Sinha on the need to arm the Central Vigilance Commission with more powers.

 

"The Commission needs to freed from government's control and turned into an independent body with all judicial and statutory powers to investigate and prosecute the guilty," Kejriwal said.

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smbhappy

A good step indeed. More RTI activists are killed than the wistle blowers. Are RTI activists Wistle Blower?

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Sajib Nandi

Law to protect whistleblowers on cabinet table

 

Chetan Chauhan and Manish Tiwari, Hindustan Times

 

New Delhi, August 04, 2010

 

Law to protect whistleblowers on cabinet table - Hindustan Times

 

"The cabinet will on Thursday consider a proposed law to protect whistleblowers who raise the red flag on corruption without consulting civil right groups. The proposed law - Public Interest Disclosure and Protection for Persons Making Disclosure Bill 2010 - comes in the wake of the murder of Right to Information activist Amit Jethwa in Gujarat who exposed corruption by an MP last month.

 

RTI activists sought a law to protect whistleblowers after National Highways Authority of India project director Satyendra Kumar Dubey was murdered in Gaya, Bihar. Dubey fought corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway project.

 

In the law, the government has defined public interest disclosure as any information that indicates misuse of public money or authority. The persons providing the information are defined as whistleblowers.

 

The bill gives sweeping powers to the Central Vigilance Commission to protect whistleblowers from any disciplinary action for exposing corruption in a government department.

 

"The commission will have the power to advise or stop any government organisation from transferring or initiating any disciplinary action against a whistleblower," a senior government official said.

 

The CVC will also be required to protect the identity of the information provider, otherwise the whistleblower's family would be able to initiate action against the officials who reveal the identity. The draft law also provides for disciplinary action against those who reveal the identity of the information provider.

 

The provision has, however, angered RTI activists who believe the CVC has failed to enforce the existing guidelines to protect the whistleblowers. In the past the commission has revealed the identity of the whistleblowers."

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DineshK

But will the govt. implement the law seriously or it remain like all other enacted and forgotten ?

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Sajib Nandi

Whistleblowers to get more protection - India - The Times of India

 

Whistleblowers to get more protection

Mahendra Kumar Singh, TNN, Aug 5, 2010, 12.37am IST

 

"NEW DELHI: After a long wait, a legislation aimed at protecting whistleblowers will be taken up by the Cabinet on Thursday. The bill has provisions to prevent victimization or disciplinary action against those who expose corruption in government.

 

The proposed law is expected to encourage disclosure of information in public interest and will cover central, state and public sector employees. According to the bill, if a person making a disclosure is victimized and his or her identity is revealed, the whistleblower’s superiors will be held liable.

 

There are clauses providing for a fine and other penalties if a whistleblower is found to be “punished” for exposing wrongdoing. At the same time, there are penalties for frivolous or malicious complaints.

 

Sources said the legislation makes Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) the nodal authority to which complaints against any state, central government or public sector employee would be delivered. CVC will have powers to ensure all steps are taken to protect the whistleblower. The CVC will also have powers to punish those making frivolous complaints in accordance with the bill’s provisions.

 

Once the Cabinet approves the draft, government intends to introduce it in the current session of Parliament. The law was conceived in the wake of the brutal killing of NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey, who complained against corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral project, and was supported by the Law Commission in its 2002 report. The SC also asked the government to come out with proper legislation to protect whistleblowers.

 

The matter had been in limbo as the government wrestled with the problem of resolving the contradiction of a whistleblower’s law with the provisions of the Official Secrets Act which enjoins government employees not to part with information revealed to them in their official capacity."

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Sajib Nandi

Law to protect whistleblowers on Cabinet agenda

 

Express news service

 

Posted: Thu Aug 05 2010, 01:42 hrs

New Delhi:

 

"The Union Cabinet is expected to clear the redrafted Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2010 on Thursday, paving the way for introducing in Parliament the Bill that provides for a law to protect whistleblowers and deal with complaints filed by them.

 

According to sources, the Bill is on the agenda of Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. The new version of the Bill, finalised by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) keeping in view the decision of the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by Defence Minister A K Anthony, is different from the earlier versions as it defines the types of actions that constitute corruption. However, the EGoM was sharply divided over including a clear-cut definition of corruption, with the Law Ministry opining that nowhere in the world has corruption been comprehensively defined.

 

The Cabinet is also expected to decide if Union ministers would be brought under the purview of the proposed law."

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Sajib Nandi
But will the govt. implement the law seriously or it remain like all other enacted and forgotten ?

 

Depends entirely on us, the People of India.

 

The RTI Act 2005 and the proposed Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2010- formidable combination to fight the evil of corruption.

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dexter

Bill to protect whistleblowers in Cabinet today

 

Bill to protect whistleblowers in Cabinet today

 

New Delhi: The much-awaited bill to protect whistleblowers, the people who reveal corruption and the corrupt, will come up before the Cabinet today.

 

The bill says that the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) will be the nodal agency to look into all complaints and that he will have the powers of a civil court and it will be his responsibility to protect the identity of the witness. Revealing the identity of a whistle blower can invite up to three years in jail and a fine of up to ` 50,000.

 

The bill also proposes that no court can interfere in the case and can have any powers on the decision of the CVC.

 

The number of whistleblowers killed this year alone has gone up to eight. The Congress-ruled Maharashtra tops the list with four killings, followed by the BJP-ruled Gujarat with two.

 

TRUTH SILENCED

 

The government came out with the Bill after three high profile whistleblowers' murders prompted huge public outcry:

 

Satyendra Dubey (1973-2003)

Satyendra Dubey, the project director of National Highways Authority of India, was murdered in Gaya. In November 2003, Dubey had exposed large-scale corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project.

 

Manjunath Shanmugam (1978-2005)

Two years later, 27-year-old IIM grad Manjunath Shanmugam was shot dead outside Lucknow for trying to clean up corruption in the gas station industry.

 

Amit Jethwa (1977-2010)

Just a few weeks back on July 21, Amit Jethwa was killed by two unidentified attackers as he was coming out of a court in Ahmedabad. He had recently filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat High Court against illegal mining in Gir forest. A Gujarat BJP MP is under the scanner for his murder.

 

 

Read more at: Bill to protect whistleblowers in Cabinet today

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karira

A comment in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 06 August 2010:

Safeguard Whistle-blowers - Edit Page - Opinion - Home - The Times of India

 

Safeguard Whistle-blowers

 

The recent spate of murders and physical assaults involving Right to Information activists in the country there have been eight murders and 20 serious attacks so far this year including the brazen murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa highlights the need for a strong law to protect whistle-blowers and deal with complaints filed by them. In the US and other western countries there are specific laws to protect whistle-blowers. They are all the more necessary in India where corruption is endemic and whistleblowers have little protection.

 

It is imperative, therefore, that Parliament should immediately pass the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2009, to protect whistle-blowers and activists.

 

Jethwa was murdered by gunmen outside the Ahmedabad high court a few days after he filed a PIL there naming an MP allegedly involved in illegal mining in the reserved Gir Forest area. Prior to Jethwa, National Highway Authority of India's Satyendra Dubey and Indian Oil Corporation's Manjunath Shanmugham were killed because they exposed corruption. These murders highlight the dangers to those who unearth the rot in the system. The RTI whose whole objective is to impart greater transparency to the system has little meaning if those who seek information under it cannot be protected. The same goes for whistle-blowers inside organisations where there is corruption. That's why legislation with some teeth is needed.

 

The proposed law appears to fit the bill, as it seeks to empower any person to file a complaint of corruption or disclosure against any central, state and public sector employee to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Further, as the nodal authority, the CVC would have powers of a civil court to summon, order police investigation and provide security to the whistle-blower. Also, under the law, if a whistle-blower's identity is compromised or if he is victimised, the individual's superiors will be held liable. Moreover, to handle frivolous complaints, there are provisions for penalties in the law.

 

While the law doesn't specifically mention RTI activists, it should nonetheless take care of their long-standing demand for such safeguards. In the law, the public interest disclosure has been defined as any information that indicates misuse of public money or authority and the persons providing such information are defined as whistle-blowers. However, more could be done in this regard such as incorporating similar provisions in the RTI Act. A multiple system of vigilance authority is also desirable. In addition to the CVC, the government should aggressively push for the appointment of lokayuktas with real powers to act as a check on state governments.

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karira

As reported by Nagendar Sharma and Chetan Chauhan in hindustantimes.com on 05 August 2010:

Civil society not happy with bill on whistleblowers - Hindustan Times

 

Civil society not happy with bill on whistleblowers

 

Transparency activists led by former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti, former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh and former Comptroller and Auditor General V. K. Shunglu have termed the proposed law to protect whistleblowers as a “formality.” The draft Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Bill, 2009 is listed for Cabinet is likely to be discussed at Cabinet’s meeting on Friday.

 

The leaders, who have formed India Rejuvenation Initiative (IRI), have received support from RTI activists, who have brought the loopholes in the proposed law to the notice of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who also heads the National Advisory Council. “We will ask the government to allow the bill to be examined by NAC before the government decides on the bill,” a NAC member said.

 

A representation from RTI activists against the law has been sent to Gandhi. “Even though the bill concerns whistleblowers like us we have not been consulted despite government’s assurance,” a RTI activist said.

 

The IRI has objected to the name of the bill titled, The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2009.

 

“It should be renamed as ‘The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistle-blowers) Bill. In the Indian context, the ‘informer’ has a certain connotation related with the functioning of police thanas and that is not very flattering,” it said.

 

“Quite often informers are paid by the police officers and there is very little protection, if any, for them and quite often they become hapless victims of mafia/criminals,” the IRI said.

 

The IRI has also objected to a section of the proposed bill, which states that no disclosure submitted after 12 months of it being known to the complainant will be probed. Another condition says no complaint will be probed after five years having lapsed from the date of alleged act having been committed.

 

“The periods... may be used by the bureaucracy to scuttle probe on technical grounds.”

 

more from this section

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jps50

Systems do not work on its own in our country, one has to make it work. The Law is only as strong as an individual is.

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ichetan

The Union Cabinet has done something commendable after lots of citizens wrote directly to the PM that under whistleblower policy the RTI applicant's details must be treated as confidential.

 

Next step - Table the bill in parliament and then presidential nod for it to be effective.

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karira

As reported in deccanherald.com on 09 August 2010:

Cabinet clears Whistleblowers protection Bill

 

Cabinet clears Whistleblowers protection Bill

 

In a significant decision aimed at boosting the confidence of whistleblowers, the Union Cabinet on Monday approved legislation to protect them besides providing for severe punishment for those exposing the identity of people disclosing information.

 

The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, provides the Central Vigilance Commission powers of a civil court to hand down harsh penalty to people revealing the identity of whistleblowers. According to the bill, the onus will be on the CVC to protect the identity of the citizens who provide information about the misuse of government authority and funds.

 

The CVC will be empowered to take action against those who reveal the identity of whistleblowers or those who threaten them while those who make frivolous complaints will also be liable to punishment. The bill, which has provisions to prevent victimisation or disciplinary action against whistleblowers will cover, Central, state and public sector employees.

 

The bill is expected to encourage disclosure of information in public interest and people who expose corruption in government. It includes clauses which provide for fines and penalties against people who punish those exposing corruption.

 

The Cabinet decision comes in the backdrop of the recent killing of RTI activists in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The call for action in protecting whistleblowers began after the killing of Manjunath Shanmugam and Satyendra Dubey and many RTI activists by anti-socials and vested interests. Several activists who exposed political and bureaucratic corruption have been killed or threatened by the mafia in the recent past. Dubey was killed in Bihar for exposing corruption among contractors engaged in constructing national highways.

 

Shanmugam, who hailed from Kolar, and was working in Uttar Pradesh as an officer in Indian Oil Corporation, was killed after he exposed petrol adulteration at fuel stations.

 

In the latest incident, activist Amit Jethwa was shot outside the Gujarat High Court premises in Ahmedabad last month. Jethwa had named a BJP leader while exposing illegal mining in the Gir forest area in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, RTI activist Datta Patil was found dead in Ichalkaranji in May. He had exposed a corruption racket which resulted in the removal of a police officer and disciplinary action against Ichalkaranji Corporation officials.

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karira

A comment in hindustantimes.com on 11 August 2010:

Many chinks in the shield - Hindustan Times

 

Many chinks in the shield

 

In an interview to Time magazine, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said that only "transparency in government leads to reduced corruption." We agree with Mr Assange wholeheartedly. To say that India is plagued with corruption would be an understatement; the rot has gone much, much deeper. Even if we keep the Commonwealth Games funds fiasco aside, we have the telecom spectrum and the mining scams to contend with. Plus, there are plenty more tucked away here and there. In such a scenario, the government’s decision to provide a shield to whistleblowers is a positive move. The Cabinet on Monday cleared the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010. Among other provisions, it aims to protect the identity of citizens who reveal information about the misuse of public authority and public money and empower the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to penalise those who reveal the identity of whistleblowers or threaten them. The first step towards protecting whistleblowers was taken in 2004 when the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions notified a resolution that empowered the CVC to act on the complaints of whistleblowers and protect them.

 

However, there are some issues that need to be ironed out if the government is really keen on making this law a powerful and effective one. For one, the power that will be given to the CVC — to issue summons — will not be enough if there are no penal provisions. We all know how summons work in this country — the entire operation is dependent on the police. The Bill, as the draft indicates now, will cover complaints against all central and state government employees as well as public sector employees. Here is the important question: what about the politicians? Will a law with these provisions be able to crack the nexus that exists between corrupt politicians and corrupt bureaucrats? Activists are also asking for re-energising the Lok Pal Bill, which has been pending in Parliament since 1969. They say that a public-appointed Lok Pal can set matters right. The other issue is that the CVC is not bound to act on every complaint. Is there a mechanism, a standard to decide which one is frivolous and which one is not?

 

As far as the security cover is concerned, as of now a person within the system and not an outsider (activists) will get it. In other words, a person like Satyendra Dubey, the National Highway Authority of India engineer who was killed in 2004, will get cover but not an Amit Jethwa, the Gujarat RTI activist who was killed recently. In our view, both should. The Bill has promise but if it is passed without trying to rectify its shortcomings, it will be that much less effective.

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sharadphadke

It is learn that DoPT quietly released "The Public Interest Disclosure And Protection To Persons Making The Disclosures Bill, 2010” & requested feedback before September 30. I do not know where and how to check. Will some one be kind to put what it is?

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