The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has sought the simultaneous passage of the Lokpal Bill, the Grievance Redress Bill and the Whistleblower Protection Bill, contending that these laws formed a basket of inter-linked measures that constituted the much required accountability regime.
Addressing a press conference, the NCPRI’s Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bharadwaj and Shekhar Singh said that though the Lokpal Bill was not entirely to their satisfaction and they wanted a few key amendments to it, they welcomed its listing for discussion and passage in the Rajya Sabha. However, the Lokpal Bill needed to be reinforced by the other Bills to form a strong and comprehensive accountability framework, they said.
The NCPRI released an open letter to all parties, among others, by Justice P.B. Sawant, Romila Thapar, Rajinder Sachar and Aruna Roy. Its central point was that the three laws offered separate remedies and were equally important from the perspective of the ordinary citizen. “We support the demand for a strong Lokpal law. However, it is extremely important to recognise that this is not enough. For the ordinary citizen, in many ways, the grievance redress law and the whistleblower protection law are as important as the Lokpal,” the letter said.
On the grievance redress legislation (The Right of Citizens to Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011), the letter said the law would provide relief to ordinary citizens who felt harassed by the denial of access to services and entitlements under the various laws. “Bribes are demanded for the most ordinary services. Most of the grievances relate to matters as basic as food, water, education, electricity, roads, pensions, medicines and hospitals. These are not inconsequential, petty complaints. The denial of these most basic rights of the citizen undermines their dignity, life and livelihood.”
On the whistleblower protection legislation (The Whistle-blowers Protection Bill, 2011), the letter said a whole decade had passed since the law was promised following the murder of whistleblower Satyendra Dubey on November 26, 2003.
It pointed out that during this time, more than 40 RTI activists had been killed and thousands of others faced daily harassment as they pursed cases of corruption without any legal protection. The letter said the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha two years ago and had been under consideration in the Rajya Sabha since then.