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Council of Mins and judiciary under whistle blowers bill

New Delhi: A Parliamentary committee has recommended bringing members of the Council of Ministers and the higher judiciary under the ambit of a bill which seeks to establish a mechanism to receive complaints regarding allegations of corruption or willful misuse of power.

In its report submitted to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha today, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Personnel has also recommended bringing the armed forces and security and intelligence agencies under the ambit of the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010 and is popularly called the whistle blowers` protection bill.

"No organisation of the government should be left out from public scrutiny and accountability provided for in the bill," Committee chairperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters here.

She said in its report, the panel has desired that the Ministry of Personnel should consider bringing the members of the Council of Ministers, the judiciary, including the higher judiciary, regulatory authorities and even the corporates within the ambit of the bill by making necessary amendments.

Natarajan hoped that since the bill deals with the issue of corruption and transparency in public life, it would be in harmony with other legislations, including the Lokpal Bill, dealing with the same subject.

She said the government should consider the provisions of the whistle blowers` protection bill while drafting the Lokpal bill.
Natarajan said the Committee has also recommended that a foolproof mechanism be envisaged to ensure that the identity of the complainant is not compromised with, "at any cost and any level."

On the issue of frivolous complaints, the Committee has rejected a stringent 5-year jail term for such people. It said the punishment should not be so harsh, but has not specified the quantum of punishment. It has also recommended that the punishment should be "appealable" in a High Court.

The panel has not endorsed the provisions of the bill ruling out complaints on events older than five years.

In its report, the panel has also recommended inclusion of witnesses who support the whistle blower in disclosing cases of corruption.

Amid reports of rampant corruption in centrally-funded schemes, the committee has suggested a mechanism to apply particularly in respect of central schemes when state authorities fail to take "suitable action."

It also hoped that states will adopt the bill at their level.

The proposed legislation also provides for severe punishment to those exposing the identity of people disclosing information.

It provides the Central Vigilance Commission powers of a civil court to hand down harsh penalty to people revealing the identity of whistleblowers.

The Bill, which has provisions to prevent victimisation or disciplinary action against whistleblowers will cover central, state and public sector employees.

The Bill is expected to encourage disclosure of information in public interest and people who expose corruption in government.

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