The Whistleblower Protection Act, which was passed in May 2014 lays down the rules that protect whistle blowers in non-corporate cases. Under this Act, the Central Vigilance Commissioner has to receive complaints, review public disclosure requests and ensure that the complainants are protected. The Act stipulates imprisonment of up to two years and fine of up to ₹30,000 if the complaint is false. The government has proposed a few amendments to these rules.
Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014.
- It protects people who bring to the notice of the authorities concerned allegations of corruption, wilful misuse of power or commission of a criminal offence against a public servant.
- The WBP law has provisions for concealing the identity of a whistle-blower
- The law affords protection against victimisation of the complainant or anyone who renders assistance in an inquiry.
- This is critical as whistle-blowers are routinely subjected to various forms of victimisation, suspensions, withholding of promotions, threats of violence and attacks.
- The law empowers the competent authorities to accord them protection, which includes police protection and penalising those who victimise them
The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015
- It seeks to remove immunity provided to whistle-blowers from prosecution under the draconian Official Secrets Act (OSA) for disclosures made under the WBP law.
- Issues involved are:
- Offences under the OSA are punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years.
- Threat of such stringent penalties would deter even genuine whistle-blowers.
- If whistle-blowers are prosecuted for disclosing information as part of their complaints and not granted immunity from the OSA, the very purpose of the law would be defeated.
RTI Act v/s WBP Act
- The RTI Act seeks to provide information to people.
- While the WBP Act provides a mechanism for disclosures to be made to competent authorities within the government to enable inquiry into allegations of corruption and provide protection to whistle-blowers.
- Conflating the two laws is inappropriate and would preclude genuine whistle-blowing in several scenarios.
- If the intention was to ensure that sensitive information pertaining to national security and integrity is not compromised, instead of carving out blanket exemptions, the government could have proposed additional safeguards for such disclosures such as requiring complaints to be filed using sealed envelopes to the competent authorities.