Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is the SC trying to kill whistle-blowers?

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court order to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who disclosed CBI chief Ranjit Sinha visitors' logbook to lawyer Prashant Bhushan has outraged activists who feel the court's volte-face is unfortunate. Rights organizations have sought an investigation to probe the veracity of the visitors' logbook rather than disclosure of an individual's identity. 

National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) convener Anjali Bhardwaj said the order was a shock for rights' activists. "This is a huge setback because it was the Supreme Court that upheld the need for protection of whistleblowers in 2004. We thought it would have been an opportunity for the court to push the government to formulate rules protecting people who are making disclosures against corruption,'' she said. 

Bhardwaj added that the visitors' logbook suggested abuse of power and authority. "The person disclosing this information has done his duty. What will be gained from finding out who the person is? In fact, the court should have pressed for the authenticity of the record instead of finding the identity of the individual,'' she said. 

Former information commissioner in the Central Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi said the direction would send an "unfortunate signal'' to people not to uncover any wrongdoing. "The first priority should have been to ask the government to investigate the authenticity of the visitors' logbook but instead, the court has sought the identity of the person. A very serious charge has been laid on the chief of the lead investigating agency in the country but no priority is being given to probe that,'' Gandhi said. 

He added that it was not beyond imagination that a powerful person like the CBI chief could change evidence or coerce witnesses.

I am afraid this is but a sample of the change that the Modi government is trying to bring about in the Supreme Court, a committed judiciary, as wanted by Indira Gandhi. There is no justification for asking the name of the person who exposed the people who visited the CBI chief and yet the SC wants the name. What is the purpose? The SC can check whether the report is correct. By asking for the names, the SC is playing into the hands of the corrupt.

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