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Will the Whistleblowers’ Bill protect activists?

Environmental Activist Sumaira Abdulali and Adv Mohana Nair explained the Whistleblowers’ Bill and how it can protect whistleblowers, who expose malpractice or corruption

The "Whistleblowers' Bill", a long standing demand of activists and NGOs, was cleared on the last day of Parliament in February, two years after it was passed by the Lok Sabha. It aims to protect whistleblowers who expose malpractice or corruption and who have faced severe threat of harassment, assault and even murder. But does it do so?


At an open house discussion organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai, environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali and Advocate Mohana Nair explained the Bill as well as its weaknesses.


The bill seeks to establish a mechanism to register complaints on any allegations of corruption or misuse of power against a public servant. It also provides safeguards against victimisation of the person who makes the complaint.

Ms Abdulali who is also convenor of MITRA (Movement against Intimidation, Threat and Revenge against Activists) and founder of Awaaz Foundation, informed the audience about the background that led to the Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill. She emphasized on ensuring to strengthen the NGO-media-RTI activists’ network, to protect activists at risk and need to monitor the use of the act and rules.


Adv Mohana Nair, who practices at the Bombay High Court and appears pro bono in several matters of public interest for deserving NGOs explained the legal aspects of the bill in detail. While comparing the Bill with laws applicable in other countries, she highlighted both the positive and negative features of the Bill. 

The positive and negative Features of new Whistleblower’s Bill


Positive Features of Bill

Negative Features of Bill


Identity of complainant to be concealed and known only to Competent Authority

Does not apply to armed forces

Public servant cannot refuse to provide information under Official Secrets Act or any other law

Complaint / disclosures cannot be made against Prime Minister, Judges of Supreme Court and High Court.

Protection against victimisation granted to complainants and penalty provided for failure to provide protection

Identity of complainant has to be disclosed to Competent Authority.

Penalties provided for furnishing incorrect information, for revealing identity of complainant, etc

Certain matters which may prejudice sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, decency or morality, Contempt of Court, defamation or incitement to an offence, etc. need not be revealed. (Sec.8)

Penalty provided for making false complaint and the complaint is found to be malafide

Penalties too low – only fines in some cases.

Covers all Ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of Legislatures, judicial officers including arbitrators, government officers, officers on public duty, officers of institutions receiving financial assistance from the Government including universities

Competent Authority only to make recommendation which has to be accepted by public authority who will take action – Public authority may disagree with Competent Authority, upon which no procedure or next steps provided.

Appeal available to High Court against penalty imposed

Actions to be taken on a complaint being held to be proved, not clear.


Ms Abdulali, who was attacked twice during sand mining site inspections said, “I was lucky to get away with my life, but many others who have tried to expose other issues have not; the list of murders and attacks on social activists in the past few years, already long, is getting longer and longer.”


She further explained on how it will impact citizens. “India’s Whistleblowers’ Bill is unique as it recognizes any individual or NGO as a whistle-blower. This means, RTI activists, anti-corruption crusaders and human rights defenders can be potential whistle-blowers,” she said.

Adv Mohana Nair said, “The bill maintains a morbid silence on the victimisation of whistle-blowers. Many definitions in the bill need to be clearer. The identities of whistleblowers need to be protected. She also clarified that this bill concentrates more on the government sectors and government officers who needs to get protected as whistleblowers after exposing the malpractices in government departments.


She also clarified that the Bill will not accept anonymous complaints. “This is either being myopic, a deliberate attempt to discourage whistleblowing or mocking the courage of scores of RTI users, who have suffered victimisation in different forms thus far. The best Whistleblower protection laws in the world, including those in UK, US and South Africa, allow for anonymity.”


During the discussion, Railway Activist, Samir Zaveri shared his experience as to how he and other activists were harassed by the police. He said he filed many RTIs to expose the Railway Scam at Kurla terminus by RPF officers. The RTI’s complaint has “to be in a good faith” but does not include any penalty. However, the Whistleblowers’ Bill doesn’t have that ‘to be in good faith’ provision. In fact, it imposes penalties if the complaint is found malafide.



R Sankar

3 years ago

Vexatious and frivolous complaints must be guarded against and well intentioned actions not called into question under the guise of whistle blowing. Whistle blowers must therefore provide eviidence and not unsubstantiated and vague allegations. By the way, An NGO to protect NGOs (Mitra)! Good business, eh?

Sensex, Nifty edges higher further: Friday closing report

Only a close below 6,625 may put a break to the upward momentum

Market today had a positive weakening however was continuously sliding down until beginning of the noon session. However, at around 12.15pm the market started gaining momentum and edged higher and closed near the day’s high.


Sensex opened at 22,273 while the Nifty opened at 6,673. After hitting a low of 22,185 and 6,644 the benchmark moved higher and hit a high of 22,364 and 6,703. Sensex closed at 22,340 (up 126 points or 0.57%) while the Nifty closed at 6,696 (up 54 points or 0.82%). The NSE recorded a volume of 78.05 crore shares.


Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday said that the implementation of Basel III capital regulations may necessitate some lead time for banks to raise capital within the internationally agreed timeline for full implementation of the Basel III capital regulations. Accordingly, the transitional period for full implementation of Basel III capital regulations in India is extended up to 31 March 2019, instead of as on 31 March 2018. Union Bank, Oriental Bank, Bank of India and PNB were among the top 10 gainers in the ‘A’ group of BSE.


On the other hand RBI relaxed some of the forex hedging rules for importers and exporters, to allow greater operational flexibility, the central bank notified on Thursday. Importers and exporters can cancel up to 75% of their hedged forex exposures, as against 25% earlier, the RBI said. In addition, the profit or loss from these cancellations will be borne by the importer/exporter instead of passing it on to the customers as was mandated earlier.


Tata Power has challenged CLP India's claim that its Jhajjar plant has started commercial operation, a declaration that allows generation companies to start billing discoms for fixed charges even if the committed electricity is not supplied. In a petition before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), Tata Power has described CLP's declaration as "illegal". It has also claimed suffering financial losses due to CLP's action. Tata Power rose 4.36% to close at Rs86.25 on the BSE is the top gainer in the Sensex 30 stocks.


JSW Steel, fell 1.89% to close at Rs980.55 on the BSE, was among the top five losers in the ‘A’ group on the BSE. JSW Steel was in news for saying that if foresees it  imports of metallurgical coal to stay flat at 7-8 million tonnes in 2014/15, indicating its mills will continue to run below capacity due to soft demand and a shortage of iron ore.


US indices closed flat with negative bias. Government data showed that the economy's growth in the fourth quarter was bumped up to 2.6%, mainly because of higher health-care spending, while weekly unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in four months, offering further evidence that US layoffs have slowed sharply and perhaps a hint that hiring is about to pick up.


Slumping for an eighth month, a gauge of pending home sales fell 0.8% in February to the lowest level in more than two years, signaling that upcoming activity may slow, the National Association of Realtors reported.


Except for Shanghai Composite (0.24%) and Taiwan Weighted (0.06%) all the other Asian indices closed in the green. Hang Seng (1.06%) was the top gainer.


Japanese retail sales rose 3.6% in February from a year earlier for the seventh straight month while the Japanese core consumer price index rose 1.3% from a year earlier in February.


European indices were trading in the green. US Futures too were trading higher.


Euro-area economic confidence increased more than analysts forecast in March, easing pressure on the European Central Bank to take action next week to counter low inflation and spur growth.


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