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ARE WHISTLE-BLOWERS REALLY SAFE IN INDIA?

Better protection for whistleblowers in public administration and industry  - Trifirò & Partners Avvocati
ARE WHISTLE-BLOWERS SAFE: Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014

Introduction

Whistle-blowing is the act of exposing someone doing immoral or illegal things to the authorities or the public. There are various types of whistle-blowing such as external, internal, alumni, open, personal, impersonal, government, and corporate. 

A Whistle-blower is an individual who reports or exposes illegal or immoral things to another person or a higher authority or public who can rectify the wrongdoings.

The whistle-blower’s face various number of challenges even though they have done the right thing. The challenges faced by the whistle-blowers are retaliation, organizational repercussions, demotion, wage garnishment, and/or backlash by other employees.

That’s why the main question in this article is that are the laws relating to whistle-blower safety protecting them?

Legal Remedies in India:

For the Public Servants:

The Whistle-blowers Act, under section 3, states that any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization can make a public interest disclosure to any Competent Authority.

Any disclosure made under this Act shall be treated as public interest disclosure for this Act and shall be made before the Competent Authority and the complaint shall be received by such authority as may be specified by regulations made by the Competent Authority.

For Listed Companies:

The Companies Act, 2013 states that every listed company should have a mechanism that stops the complainant from being victimized and can freely disclose matter which is illegally done in the company against any high authority figure.

SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has stated that every listed company must have a Whistle-blower policy and employees are to be told about such policy so that the employees can report about the occurrence of illegal matters in the company.

From December 2019, the SEBI has also announced a reward mechanism where the Informants get incentives for reporting insider trading information.

For Private Employers:

There is no such law that helps whistle-blowers in private companies. Except for some MNC’s, no other companies have a Whistle-blower policy which saves them from discrimination or victimization.

ARE WHISTLE-BLOWERS REALLY SAFE IN INDIA? Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014
ARE WHISTLE-BLOWERS REALLY SAFE IN INDIA? Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014

Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014

India has enacted the Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014, and can be utilized by any person to make a public interest disclosure.

Public Interest Disclosure means a disclosure of information about misconduct in the public sector that helps the public at large. 

This act was passed to

  • receive complaints relating to the exposure of any complaints related to corruption, willful misuse of power against any public servant;
  •  to inquire or cause an inquiry into such disclosure; and 
  • to provide sufficient protection against any ill-treatment of the person who made such complaints.

History of Whistle-blower Act

This Act was introduced due after a whistle-blower named Satyendra Dubey, a National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) engineer was killed after he uncovered the corruption in the National Highway project in 2003.

Later on, an Indian Oil Cooperation officer was killed because he revealed that the cooperation was selling adulterated fuel. A lot of more cases started to happened where the whistle-blowers were being killed.

The activists demanded that a law should be made to protect the whistle-blowers, which later would help in uncovering a lot of malpractices in the future and wouldn’t ruin the life of the whistle-blowers. 

To receive a complaint against alleged corruption and to protect the person making such a complaint, the Government introduced “The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010” in the Lok Sabha on 26 August 2010. 

The Act was approved by the Cabinet of India to get rid of corruption in the country and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011. The Bill became an Act when it was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President’s assent on 9 May 2014.

Salient Features of Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014

  • The Act helps to protect the whistle-blowers.
  • Any person (public servant or non-government official) can divulge sensitive information to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.
  • The Central or State Vigilance Commission can’t reveal the identity of the person who made the complaint.
  • The Act also says the if any person reveals the identity of the complainant he will be charged with a penalty.

Problems of Whistle-blowers Protection Act,2014

The Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014 has faced disapproval because its jurisdiction is restricted only to the government sector and only considers the employees who are working for the Government of India; it does not cover the state government employees.

The Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014 does not give any incentives which encourage whistleblowing and it also does not help to deal with corporate whistle-blowers.

While the intention of the legislation and regulations are profound, the method of investigation into whistle-blower complaints and how the whole process is done is still unclear.

The Act also does not suggest any procedure for inquiring into complaints about corruption, willful abuse of power, or willful misuse of discretion or offenses committed by members of the lower judiciary.

Conclusion

It can be conclude that the whistle-blowers are not safe in India and for this the absence of proper procedure and solid laws is to blamed. As with the increase in Corruption and other heinous crimes, there is a need for more strict acts now more than ever. The people who come forward against such crimes should be protected and awarded for their acts.

The Acts should be updated and implemented as fast as possible because the whistle-blowers are losing their lives and the corrupted people continue to do unethical and illegal work, a proper procedure must be given by the Government to prevent such offenses.

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