April 29, 2010
Enact Whistleblowers Act – To Protect RTI Users !*
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – A Parliamentary expert tonight called for a law to protect whistleblowers to ward off criminal attacks– including murder– which have targeted some citizens invoking their Right to Information.
The five-year-old law to empower citizens was the theme of E M Sudarsana Natchiappan’s lecture to commemorate B R Ambedkar, an author of the Constitution of India.
Asked about the spate of assaults suffered by RTI users, at least two of whom were killed, Natchiappan said the answer was to enact the Whistleblowers’ Act.
Satish Shetty of Pune who exposed land scams in Maharashtra was killed by unidentified men while out for a morning walk on January 13.
A month later, on February 14, Shashidhar Mishra of Begursarai who used RTI to expose Panchayat corruption in Bihar was shot by unidentified men.
A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing in an organisation or body of people.
Many Western democracies have laws to protect such individuals.
In India, legislation was suggested by the Law Commission in December 2001 as a follow up to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s call for zero-tolerance to corruption.
But a law has yet to be enacted, while corruption and scams have gone on to multiply.
The Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Lecture organised by the Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies was presided over by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habbibullah.
Natchiappan, a former chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, disclosed that of some 130 recommendations made by his panel on RTI, all except one were accepted by the Union Cabinet.
The only recommendation which did not find favour would have jailed any official who persisted in not complying with the requirement of the Act in terms of replying to applicants in time.