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Saturday, April 20, 2013

RTI activists seek more teeth to whistleblower law

 NEW DELHI: With over 16 activists killed and thousands under attack or threatened, RTI activists have demanded a stronger whistleblower law, including provisions for accountability and compensation for victims. The Whistleblowers Protection Bill is likely to come up in Parliament in the budget session starting next week.

But activists feel that the Bill in its present form is not strong enough to prevent deaths. National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) have sought making Section 4 of the RTI Act — that calls for proactive disclosure of information — mandatory, besides ensuring that there is accountability under the whistleblower's Bill.

Speaking on the need for a strong law, National Commission for Minorities chairman Wajahat Habibullah said that there was no accountability under the whistleblower's Bill. "We have seen in cases that people have gone and complained right up to the PM but there is no action. Officials must be held accountable," he said. He was supported by NCPRI members, including Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bharadwaj.

The NCPRI has also demanded that the definition of victimization should be broadened to include not just threat to physical life and liberty.

The activists felt that the law must stipulate a clear timeframe — no more than 45 days — within which the discreet inquiry by the authority must be completed to prevent inordinate delays. The recommendations, which came after a day-long tribunal where whistleblowers and their families presented their testimonials, include people who are providing information through documents and other material to the whistleblower must also be protected.

The NCPRI has demanded that the Bill should provide for acting upon anonymous complaints if it is accompanied with adequate supporting documents which reveal a prima-facie case.
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