Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Prashant Bhushan launches Citizens' Whistleblowers Forum.

Economic Times: New Delhi: February 8, 2017.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan today launched the Citizens' Whistleblowers Forum as he criticised the Centre for its "failure" to notify and implement the law on protecting whistleblowers and "seeking to dilute it" through an amendment in Parliament. "The forum will serve as a platform where whistleblowers can make disclosures which will then be investigated and acted upon," Bhushan said. "In the absence of a credible authority and the effectuation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 (WBPA), we need atleast a citizens' forum consisting of credible people of this country to whom the whistleblowers can take their complaints," he said. 
The senior advocate said the forum will be headed by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah. Ex­Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas, Aruna Roy, Wajahat Habibullah, EAS Sarma, Jagdeep S Chhokar and Prashant Bhushan will also be a part of the body. Bhushan said while the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was authorised in 2004 to handle complaints made by whistleblowers and also ensure their protection, "the Commission's track record has been anything but satisfactory". He attributed this to "weak appointments" and "lack of independent investigative machinery". 
Bhushan also appealed the MPs not to pass the amendment to the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011. "We hope members of Rajya Sabha will not pass such a retrograde amendment which will destroy the whistleblowers law," the senior lawyer said. According to the amendment, a whistleblower is deemed to be a person who provides an information which a citizen can access under RTI. If the whistleblower provides any other information, he will lose protection and will be liable to be prosecuted under Official Secrets Act, 1923. Another clause of the amendment also bars whistleblowers from seeking information on national security. The amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2015 and has been passed in the Lower House but is pending before Rajya Sabha. Bhushan demanded that the government notify the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 and frame rules under the Act to pave way for its implementation. "This Act has been passed by both the Houses of Parliament and has received the assent of the President. 
There is no reason for not notifying and effectuating it," he asserted. The Swaraj India leader also demanded appointment of the Lokpal under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and that CBI be placed under the administrative control of the Lokpal. Justice A P Shah, Chairperson of Citizens' Whistleblowers Forum, said, "We are clearly disappointed with the current government on the corruption front. One of the important ingredients of good governance is to have an effective anti­corruption mechanism. "If a robust anti­graft mechanism is not put in place, the forum will have no choice but to approach the court demanding enforcement of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013," he said. The Citizens' Whistleblowers Forum also pressed for a law to deal with corruption in the private sector as well as wrong­doings by foreign
The Citizens' Whistleblowers Forum also pressed for a law to deal with corruption in the private sector as well as wrong-doings by foreign public servants in India. 
The Supreme Court had last month refused to intervene in the legislative process on the amendments to WBPA stating, "It is not for the court to interfere when the Parliament is seized of the matter."