Recently I received a mailer from my client, wherein it was told about how the client practices fair play policy and values the ethics and code of conducts. There was a special mention about the client following whistleblower policy, wherein the identity of a person reporting anything wrong or unethical going within the company, is masked and kept secret. It was just a normal mail to me, having no interest I deleted it.
But today I read in the paper that this whistleblower protection law is not yet applicable in our country even.
What is a whistleblower protection law?
A whistleblower is defined as someone who exposes wrongdoing, fraud, corruption or mismanagement. In many cases, this could be a person who works for the government who would report misconduct within the government or it could be an employee of a private company who reports corrupt practices within the company. The law that a government enacts to protect such persons who help expose corruption is called a whistleblower protection law.
Does India have a whistleblower protection law?
No, at present India does not have any law to protect whistleblowers, though a bill for the purpose is in the pipeline. The issue of protection for whistleblowers caught the attention of the entire nation when National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) engineer Satyendra Dubey was killed after he wrote a letter to the office of then PM A B Vajpayee detailing corruption in the construction of highways.
In the letter, he had asked specifically that his identity be kept secret. Instead, the letter was forwarded to various concerned departments without masking Dubey’s identity. Dubey’s murder led to a public outcry at the failure to protect him. As a result, in April 2004, the Supreme Court pressed the government into issuing an office order, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection of Informers Resolution, 2004 designating CVC as the nodal agency to handle complaints on corruption.
However, over a year later, Manjunath Shanmugham, an IIM graduate and a sales manager of the IOC, was murdered on Nov 19, 2005 for exposing the racket of adulteration of petrol and the mafia behind it. This brought renewed focus on need for a law to protect whistleblowers — but five years after the last episode, there is still no law in India.
What is the proposed law?
The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2009 was prepared by the department of personnel and training (DoPT). As per the draft law, any person can make a complaint of corruption or disclosure against any central government employee or central government-backed institution to the CVC. The CVC, which would be designated as the competent authority for complaints, would have the powers of a civil court, including powers to summon anybody, order police investigation and provide security to the whistleblower.
The CVC would not reveal the identity of the complainant but would have the authority to ignore complaints of vexatious or frivolous nature. It would also not be able to investigate complaints pertaining to matters which are sub judice, prejudicial to national security, international relations, proceedings of the Union Cabinet or those beyond the limitation period of five years.
However, the proposed law does not deal with corporate whistleblowers, though as per the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the scope of the proposed law could be enlarged to deal with corporate whistleblowers too. The bill was supposed to be introduced in Parliament in the later part of this year’s Budget session. But it is yet to happen.
Do other countries have similar laws to protect whistleblowers?
Several countries have already put in place laws to protect whistleblowers or are in the process of doing so. However, the level of protection and the way in which the law operates differs from country to country. For instance, the US was one of the earliest to have the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, while the UK has the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998, and Norway has a similar law in place since January 2007.
I believe that such policies should come in effect immediately rather than focusing on quota bills of any sorts. People in India live a dark life full of fear and terror. They dread of the protagonist more than the antagonist. On seeing a policewala, we usually change the course of our way, just to avoid his glare.
We are fearful in fighting against the crime, because most of the time we are concerned with the after effects and all the turmoil we will have to go through if we get involved. The system is a closed mesh and once in, our reputation, peace of mind, family and all is at stake. We have no confidence if the culprit will get the justice due to him and that our safety will be guaranteed.
A year ago, a policy came wherein if a person helping someone who met an accident and brought him to a hospital, he will not be held up for questioning and any kind of paperwork. This certainly has helped the people to overcome their fear of system and forward a helping hand to the needed.
This law should be taken on a first priority basis and a lot others like this instead of sitting and shitting on the seats. Ignore my harsh words, but I really do appeal the government to take measures that are really needed for the upliftment of society and country.