Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 (renamed as Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 by the second schedule of the Repealing and Amending Act, 2015, is an Act of the Parliament of India which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices. The wrongdoing might take the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement. The Act will also ensure punishment for false or frivolous complaints. The Act was approved by the Cabinet of India as part of a drive to eliminate corruption in the country’s bureaucracy and passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011. The Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President’s assent on 9 May 2014. The Central Vigilance Commission plans to create more awareness about corruption in India. To encourage the fight against corruption, CVC has provided on their website, a “Lodge Complaints Online” portal. The earlier publicized portal Blow your whistle is no longer functional.
Background of the Act
There have been multiple instances of threatening, harassment and even murder of various whistleblowers. An engineer, Satyendra Dubey, was murdered in November 2003; Dubey had blown the whistle in a corruption case in the National Highways Authority of India’s Golden Quadrilateral project. Two years later, an Indian Oil Corporation officer, Shanmughan Manjunath, was murdered for sealing a petrol pump that was selling adulterated fuel. A Karnataka official SP Mahantesh, said to be a whistle-blower in controversial land allotments by societies was murdered in May 2012. Mahantesh was working as Deputy Director of the audit wing in the state’s Cooperative department and had reported irregularities in different societies involving some officials and political figures.A senior police officer alleged that Mayawati’s government was corrupt and had embezzled large amounts of money. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. The activists demanded that a law should be framed to protect the whistleblowers, to facilitate the disclosure of information and uncover corruption in government organizations.
Highlights of the Bill
The Bill seeks to protect whistleblowers, that is persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offence by a public servant.
Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.
Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant.
The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Bill penalizes any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
The Bill prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.
Key Issues and Analysis
The Bill aims to balance the need to protect honest officials from undue harassment with protecting persons making a public interest disclosure. It punishes any person making false complaints. However, it does not provide any penalty for victimizing a complainant.
The CVC was designated to receive public interest disclosures since 2004 through a government resolution. There have been only a few hundred complaints every year. The provisions of the Bill are similar to that of the resolution. Therefore, it is unlikely that the number of complaints will differ significantly.
The power of the CVC is limited to making recommendations. Also, it does not have any power to impose penalties. This is in contrast to the powers of the Karnataka Lokayukta and the Delhi Lokayukta.
The Bill has a limited definition of disclosure and does not define victimization. Other countries such as US, UK, and Canada define disclosure more widely and define victimization.
The Bill differs on many issues with the proposed Bill of the Law Commission and the 2nd Administrative Reform Commission’s report. These include non-admission of anonymous complaints and lack of penalties for officials who victimize whistleblowers.