RTI is the basis of whistle-blower. RTI is being used by individuals to ask question on the use of public funds, and unearthing corruption from panchayat to parliament.
Basis for whistle-blower
People will not unearth corruption when there will be the fear of loss of lives. Ex:- Satyendra dubey, Satish Shetty, Narendra kumar, Lalit Mehta etc. 20 RTI users have lost their lives since 2010 in different districts across Bihar.
Meaning of Whistle-blower
The act of someone reporting a concern or disclosing information on acts and omissions that represent a threat or harm to the public interest.
Whistle-blower Protection Act 2014
- It allows any person, including a public servant, to make a public interest disclosure before a Competent Authority. For instance, Competent authority to complain against any union minister is the Prime Minister.
- Anonymous Complaints: A complaint is only acted upon if the complainant discloses his identity in the complaint. Complainants providing false identities/anonymous complaints are not recognized.
- Protection Accorded under the Act: Section 11 of the Act provides a safeguard against victimization of the complainant.
- Punishment under the Act against false complaints: Section 17 of the Act provides that any person who makes a malafide disclosure or knowing that the same was false or incorrect or misleading shall be punishable with imprisonment of 2 years and a fine of up to thirty thousand rupees.
- The Whistle blowers Act overrides the Official Secret Act 1923 and allows the complainant to make public interest disclosure before competent authority even if they are violative of the later act but not harming the sovereignty of the nation.
Bill for Amendment in Whistle blower Act:
- The Act provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants. The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information. These categories include information related to: (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.
- The Act permits disclosures that are prohibited under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. The Bill reverses this to disallow disclosures that are covered by the OSA.
- Any public interest disclosure received by a Competent Authority will be referred to a government authorised authority if it falls under any of the above 10 prohibited categories. This authority will take a decision.
State government should take the lead:
- To complete investigation in cases of whistle-blower harassment in time bound manner.
- Information must be in public domain as per section 4 of RTI Act for which these whistle-blowers are putting their life at stake. Ex: Rajasthan Jan Soochna portal
- Wide publicity to such information may potentially act as a deterrent against attacks on RTI users.
- State wise whistle-blower act.
Lacuna in Law:
- Whistle-blowers are disliked by the government, corporations, and even society to some level, with some countries, even referring to them as “traitors.” The story of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and Edward Snowden exemplifies this idea.
- Whistle-blower face legal action, criminal accusations, social disgrace, and the possibility of being fired from any position, office, or job.
- The Act does not allow anonymous complaints to be submitted and any anonymous complaints received are not investigated.
- Under the Act, the competent authority to whom any complaint on victimization can be made is usually the senior official in the hierarchy. This makes it difficult for the informant to complain against retaliation or receive any protection.
Comparison with USA:
- USA allow for anonymity of the whistle-blower complaints.
- All whistle-blower complaints are supposed to be reported to an independent arbitrator to investigate.
- Various laws in the US provide for different reward systems payable to a whistle-blower.