Articles on Whistleblowing
Articles on Whistleblowing, Whistleblower Act 2017The Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011, is aimed at providing a mechanism for an investigation into allegations of corruption and misuse of power by public functionaries and seeks to protect persons who expose alleged malpractices in government projects, departments and offices. Such malpractices may be in the form of corruption, mismanagement or fraud.
The primary objective of the Act is to protect such individuals, who, at great personal risk, expose such wrongdoings on the part of the public servants. The need for a legal mechanism for the protection of whistleblowers was felt, after many instances of such gallant individuals being threatened, harassed, assaulted and even killed came to light.
Satyendra Dubey, an engineer who exposed corruption in the National Highways Authority of India’s Golden Quadrilateral project, was murdered in November 2003. He had sent a complaint regarding corruption in the said project to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), wherein he had requested that his identity be kept a secret keeping in mind the great personal risk he had taken in exposing corruption. However, his request was not honoured. The PMO sent his letter to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, which forwarded it to the National Highway Authority, where Dubey was an employee.
A couple of years later, Shanmughan Manjunath, an employee of the Indian Oil Corporation, who sealed a petrol pump selling adulterated fuel, was also a murderer. RTI and anti-corruption activists allege that scores of whistleblowers have been murdered since then. These deaths sparked countrywide protests.
Articles on Whistleblowing Thus, an urgent need was felt for a mechanism to protect the whistleblowers. The Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011, came up as a result as a part of the movement to remove corruption in India’s bureaucracy. The Act seeks to protect whistleblowers and save them from victimization. Under the law, in case of victimization, a whistleblower can seek protection through the competent authority that has been empowered to take necessary action to protect the whistleblower and issue binding orders to the concerned government authority, including the police, to provide protection.
Instead of promulgating effective rules to operationalize the Act, the government has gone on to amend the Act through the Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The Bill prohibits corruption related disclosure if it falls under the 10 categories of information specified in the Bill. These include information related to economic, scientific interests and security of India, cabinet proceedings and intellectual property rights. INSIDER TRADING
Under the 2011 Act, disclosures prohibited under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, are permitted. However, the 2015 amendment bill seeks to reverse that. In addition, a public interest disclosure received by a competent authority, if it deals with information under any of the 10 prohibited categories, shall be referred to a government-authorized authority, which shall take a decision in the matter that shall be binding.
The Bill does not specify the minimum qualification required or the process to be employed in the appointment of such an authority. Barring these 10 off-limits categories, a whistleblower is allowed to disclose information only if it has been obtained through a right to information request. Thus, a whistleblower is entitled to protection only if all these conditions are met, could be penalized if these are not, and the appropriate governments would be the final authorities to judge the merits of each case.
Right to information and anti-corruption activists have been up in arms against the proposed amendment to the Whistleblower Protection Act. They contend that if the proposed amendment is passed, it would discourage an individual from speaking out against corruption. Hence, there would not be many whistleblowers to protect in the first place. This runs counter to the grain of an Act that came to the fore to protect and encourage disclosure of malpractices in public life.