Rahul Gandhi at Parliament House on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Feb. 21: Parliament today approved a bill that penalises public officials who disclose the identity of whistleblowers, the only one of six draft legislations targeting corruption under consideration that the House has passed despite a push from Rahul Gandhi over the past few months.
The Congress vice-president blamed the Opposition for stalling proceedings that prevented the passage of these other bills, and told reporters he would request the Prime Minister to bring ordinances to implement these legislations.
The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making that Disclosure Bill, popularly known as the Whistleblowers Bill, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on the final day of Parliament under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.
The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha in the previous session, now needs the President’s approval for it to become law. Under this legislation, every government office will need to set up a cell to handle disclosures made by whistleblowers in public interest.
Officers are expected to probe only disclosures carrying the name of the complainant — anonymous complaints need not be entertained. But no public officer in charge of a complaint can share or disclose the name of the complainant. Violators face up to three years in jail and a Rs 50,000 fine.
Activists who have lobbied for the legislation said that its current version was riddled with loopholes, but that they were glad at least a basic draft was passed by Parliament.
“Though it is unfortunate that it had to be passed without some important amendments, something is better than nothing,” Dhananjay Dubey, brother of Satyendra Dubey, the engineer who was murdered in Gaya in 2003 after he raised concerns about corruption on the Golden Quadrilateral project of the NDA government wrote to friends on Facebook. “At least we have a basic framework now.”
Bills to enhance the accountability of judges, ensure time-bound delivery of goods and services, prevent the bribery of foreign officials, increase transparency in public procurement and amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act are pending with Parliament.
Cancer patients will have easier access to the painkiller morphine with Parliament today passing the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011.
The existing law required patients to go through a few rounds of paperwork before accessing the drug. The rules have been simplified in the new bill.