New Delhi: Eminent Civil Society members, led by Justice (retd.) A P Shah, have launched ‘Citizens Whistle Blower Forum‘ on February 28 to fight Corruption.The forum was launched during the conclusion of the two-day ‘Act Now – National Convention on Corruption‘.
Here is the press release issued by the forum.
Concerned with the lack of effective systematic mechanisms to fight Corruption and acting in public interest, several eminent members of the Civil Society came together today to launch the Citizens Whistle Blower Forum (CWBF/Forum) with a firm resolve to contribute significantly in the fight against corruption. The founding members of the Forum is an eclectic and confidence inspiring combination of legal luminaries like Justice (retd.) A P Shah, Justice (retd.) N Santosh Hegde, senior ex-bureaucrats like Mr. E.A.S. Sarma, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, ex-head of Indian Navy: Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas besides a number of well known social and civil rights Activists represented by Ms. Aruna Roy, Mr. Jagdeep Chhoker and Mr. Prashant Bhushan (himself a noted lawyer also).
Corruption: the multi-faceted evil
Recently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had called corruption “a national economic terror” and called for stringent measures to control this social calamity. Several international organisations have echoed similar concerns earlier:
- In 2015, India was ranked 85th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’sCorruption Perceptions Index.
- The World Bank has earlier found corruption to be the single greatest obstacleto economic and social development.
- In his foreword to the UN Convention against Corruption, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi K Annan said: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on society. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and it allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries, big and small, rich and poor – but it is in the developing world that its effects are more destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining the government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and the major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development”.
A. Mechanisms to fight Corruption
In its Charter, the Forum noted that the two main weapons to fight corruption, i.e., (A) legislation and (B) Whistleblowers have sadly not been allowed to develop and deliver adequately in India.
B. Weak and ineffective Legislations
As per the said Charter, pursuant to the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed while hearing Writ Petition (C) No.539/2003 regarding Shri Satyendra Dubey, who had to pay for his life for exposing the scam in the “Golden Quadrilateral highway construction project, the Central Government vide its notification dated April 21, 2004 authorised the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) as the designated Agency to, inter-alia, investigate written complaints or disclosure on any allegation of corruption or of mis-use of office, (b) recommend appropriate action against the wrong doers, (c) recommend taking corrective measures to prevent recurrence of wrong doing in future and (d) ensure protection of the Whistle Blowers from administrative harassment and victimisation. Despite receiving a large number of complaints during the last decade, the track record of CVC is anything but satisfactory, let alone impressive: it rarely took any action for either conducting independent & effective investigations or for protection of the Whistle Blowers. Two main reasons could be attributed to this: (1) Merit was overlooked and appointments were often driven by political considerations and (2) “conflict of interest” since the CVO had no independent investigative machinery.
The Whistleblower protection Act, 2011 (Act) is yet to be notified and efforts are already under way to dilute it further. Even in its present form, the Act is a weak piece of legislation and suffers from a number of lacunae/defects. Some of these are:
- Its scope is restricted to complaints against public servants only and private entities are outside its ambit,
- The Special Protection Group (SPG), Prime Minister, Chief Ministers of States, Judges of High Court & Supreme Court are not covered.
- The mechanism for investigation against a public servant by authorities such as the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) whose appointments are often driven by political considerations fails to inspire confidence.
- Whistleblowers hesitate to confide in public authorities for fear of disclosure of their identity and/or probable harassment.
C. Whistle blowing: The contrasting Global and Indian perspectives
Globally, Whistle Blowers have emerged as one of the most effective tools to fight corruption. Countries like USA even give substantial financial rewards to them. Sadly, in India, “Whistle blower” is still a dirty word. “Shooting the messenger” is a common phenomenon in India. Most have to undergo harassments of various kinds. Some have literally paid with their lives. Disillusioned by the inaction and lack of confidence in public authorities, most prospective Whistle Blowers now choose to remain silent. Corruption thereby continues to flourish.
Need for the Forum to step in
It is to fill this void, address the limited efficacy of the relevant legislations and acting in public interest, that the aforesaid distinguished members of the civil society have launched the Citizens Whistle Blower Forum. The Forum will, inter-alia,:
- Provide the much needed confidence to the Whistle Blowers to expose without fear, inter-alia, cases of corruption, commission of any criminal offense or willful misuse of powers by any person/entity including but not limited to any public, private, political, judicial or constitutional entity which, prime-facie, causes loss to the public exchequer, results in human rights violations, endangers national security and/or sovereignty or is against the larger public interest,
- Investigate and take such cases to their logical conclusion in a time bound manner including taking up the issues with the Authorities and Courts for investigation and/or prosecution,
- Keep confidential the identity of the Whistleblower if so desired by them and provide necessary support to them for preventing their victimization and harassment.
Procedure and contact details:
The procedure for exposing cases referred to in (1) above and bringing them to the notice of the Forum. The Forum can be reached at:
- Office Address: Citizens Whistle Blower Forum, Common Cause House, 5, Institutional Area, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi – 110070.
Hope and Optimism
It is hoped that the members of the public will utilize the Forum to fight corruption and contribute in building a better, ethical and stronger India that we can all be proud of.