Whistleblowing is defined as an employee or other concerned stakeholder disclosing information about illegal or unethical behaviour within an organisation. A whistle-blower is someone who informs on someone or something that is doing something illegal. In 2001, the Indian Law Commission recommended that a law protecting whistle-blowers be enacted in order to combat corruption. It had also drafted a bill to address the problem.
• In response to a petition filed in 2004 following the infamous murder of an NHAI official, the Supreme Court of India directed the Central government to put in place "administrative machinery for acting on complaints from whistle-blowers until a law is enacted."
• In response, the government issued the 'Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Resolution (PIDPIR)' in 2004. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was given the authority to act on complaints from whistle-blowers as a result of this resolution.
• The Second Administrative Reforms Commission's report from 2007 also recommended that a specific law be enacted to protect whistle-blowers. The United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which India has been a signatory (though not ratified) since 2005, encourages states to make it easier for public officials to report corruption and to protect witnesses and experts from retaliation. The Convention also protects the person filing the complaint from becoming a victim. To comply with such regulations, the Whistle-blowers Protection Bill was proposed in 2011 and passed into law in 2014. Companies must now take notice of all such complaints under the Companies Act of 2013, as well as the Securities and Exchange Board of India regulations.
• The Whistle-blower Protection Act, passed in May 2014, establishes guidelines for whistle-blower protection in non-corporate cases. The Central Vigilance Commissioner is responsible for receiving complaints, reviewing public disclosure requests, and ensuring that complainants are protected under the law. If the complaint is false, the Act provides for imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of up to Rs. 30,000. A few changes to these rules have been proposed by the government.
WHISTLEBLOWERS PROTECTION ACT, 2014.
1. It protects people who bring allegations of corruption, wilful misuse of power, or the commission of a criminal offence against a public servant to the attention of the authorities concerned.
2. The Whistle-blowers Protection Act includes provisions for concealing a whistle-blower’s identity.
3. Victimization of the complainant or anyone who assists in an investigation is prohibited under the law.
4. This is crucial because whistle-blowers are frequently subjected to various forms of victimisation, including suspensions, demotions, threats of violence, and attacks.
5. The law gives competent authorities the authority to provide them with protection, including police protection and retaliation against those who victimise them.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AMENDMENT ACT
1. The act creates a mechanism to receive complaints about allegations of corruption or wilful misuse of power or discretion levelled against any public servant, as well as to investigate or cause an investigation into such allegations.
2. In addition, the act provides adequate protections against victimisation of the person filing the complaint.
3. It allows anyone, including government employees, to make a public interest disclosure to a Competent Authority. Various competent authorities are elaborately defined in the law.
The Prime Minister, for example, is the competent authority to file a complaint against any union minister.
4. The law prohibits anonymous complaints and expressly states that unless the complainant establishes his or her identity, no action will be taken by a competent authority.
5. A complaint can be filed for a maximum of seven years.
6. The act does not apply to personnel and officers of the Special Protection Group (SPG), which was established under the Special Protection Group Act of 1988.
7. Any person who is aggrieved by a Competent Authority order has sixty days from the date of the order to file an appeal with the concerned High Court.
8. Anyone who inadvertently or maliciously discloses the identity of a complainant faces imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.
9. If the disclosure was made in bad faith and with knowledge that it was incorrect, false, or misleading, the person will be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison and fined up to Rs. 30,000.
10. The Competent Authority prepares a consolidated annual report on the results of its activities and submits it to the Central or State Government, which is then presented to each House of Parliament or State Legislature, as applicable.
11. The Whistle-blowers Act supersedes the Official Secrets Act of 1923, allowing a complainant to make public interest disclosures before competent authorities, even if they violate the latter act but do not jeopardise the nation's sovereignty.
12. Whistle-blowers must not be allowed to reveal any documents classified under the Official Secrets Act of 1923, even if the purpose is to expose acts of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal activities, according to an amendment bill introduced in 2015. This calls into question the 2014 Act's very existence.
RTI VS WBP
1. The RTI Act aims to provide people with access to information. While the WBP Act establishes a mechanism for disclosing information to appropriate government authorities in order to facilitate investigations into allegations of corruption and provide protection to whistle-blowers.
2. Combining the two laws is ineffective and, in several scenarios, would prevent genuine whistleblowing.
3. Rather than carving out blanket exemptions, the government could have proposed additional safeguards for such disclosures, such as requiring complaints to be filed using sealed envelopes to the competent authorities, if the goal was to ensure that sensitive information pertaining to national security and integrity was not compromised.