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Whistleblowers Protection Act 2014

Whistleblowers Protection Act 2014

Why in news?

  • Recently, the accusations raised against the Infosys Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and other senior officials have brought back the focus on whistleblowers’ safety in India.
  • In recent years, the number of whistleblowing complaints has risen in the corporate sector, with Wipro and State Bank of India (SBI) facing most of them in 2018.

What is whistleblowing?

  • Whistleblowing is defined as an act of disclosing information by an employee or any concerned stakeholder about an illegal or unethical conduct within an organization.
  • A whistleblower is a person who informs about a person or organization engaged in such illicit activity.

Background

  • The Law Commission of India in 2001, had recommended that, in order to eliminate corruption, a law to protect whistleblowers was necessary. It had drafted a bill as well to address this issue.
  • In 2004, in response to a petition filed after the infamous murder of NHAI Official, the Supreme Court of India directed the Central government that, ‘administrative machinery be put in place for acting on complaints from whistleblowers till a law is enacted.’
  • The government, in response, notified a resolution in 2004 named, ‘Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Resolution (PIDPIR)’.
  • This resolution gave the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) the power to act on complaints from whistleblowers.
  • In 2007, the report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission also recommended that a specific law needs to be enacted to protect whistleblowers.
  • The UN Convention against Corruption to which India is a signatory (although not ratified) since 2005, encourages states to facilitate reporting of corruption by public officials and provide protection for witnesses and experts against retaliation.
  • The Convention also provides safeguards against victimization of the person making the complaint.
  • To conform with such regulations, in 2011 Whistleblowers Protection Bill was proposed which finally became a law in 2014.
  • The Companies Act, 2013, as well as the Securities and Exchange Board of India regulations have made it mandatory for companies to take notice of all such complaints.

Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014

  • Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014, 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.

Salient Features

  • The Act seeks to protect whistleblowers, i.e. persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense 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 maximum time period for making a complaint is seven years.
  • The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Act penalizes any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
  • The Act prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.
  • Exemptions: The act is not applicable to the Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel and officers, constituted under the Special Protection Group Act, 1988.
  • Court of Appeal: Any person aggrieved by any order of the Competent Authority can make an appeal to the concerned High Court within a period of sixty days from the date of the order.
  • Penalty: Any person who negligently or malafidely reveals the identity of a complainant will be punishable with imprisonment for a term extending up to 3 years and a fine which may extend up to Rs 50,000. If the disclosure is done malafidely and knowingly that it was incorrect or false or misleading, the person will be punishable with imprisonment for a term extending up to 2 years and a fine extending up to Rs. 30,000.
  • Annual Report: The Competent Authority prepares a consolidated annual report of the performance of its activities and submits it to the Central or State Government that will be further laid before each House of Parliament or State Legislature, as the case may be.

Criticism

  • Covers only central government employees. Does not cover state government / private bodies
  • No provisions of incentives for whistleblowing.
  • Does not cover corporate whistleblowers
  • Powers of CVC is limited to making recommendations. It cannot impose penalties.
  • Victimization neither defined nor covered properly.

Whistleblower Protection Act (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • In 2015, an amendment bill was moved that proposes, whistleblowers must not be allowed to reveal any documents classified under the Official Secrets Act of 1923 even if the purpose is to disclose acts of corruption, misuse of power or criminal activities. This dilutes the very existence of the 2014 Act.

Importance Of Having Strong Whistleblowing Protection Act

  • Helps government to be more accountable thus improving its efficiency
  • Helps government to be more transparent in their functioning
  • Helps to prevent corruption in government and public undertakings
  • Whistle blowing act as a deterrence to corrupt officials as their selfish deeds can be exposed by them.

Strong Whistleblower Act Compliments RTI In The Following Manner

  • Access to information in a transparent manner
  • Helps in better governance
  • Upholds right to equality in accessing information.
  • Integrity of government machinery is upheld and this prevents crisis of credibility

 

ETHICS LECTURES

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