Whistleblower Act: Honest lives lost, protective law yet to see the light of day



By NewsGram Staff Writer

Prashant Pandey, the whistleblower who exposed the “Vyapam Scam” is scared for his life.

The tense situation Pandey finds himself in, is due to the removal of security cover accorded by the Delhi Police under the direction of the Delhi High Court.

According to a Delhi Police official, the reason for the withdrawal of Pandey’s security is that the petition had been disposed off and, in the final order, there was no mention of any security to be provided to him.

“There is no security from Delhi Police. The security personnel have been withdrawn. I fear for my security and for my family,” said Pandey while talking to PTI.

The digital forensics expert from Madhya Pradesh is known for uncovering the massive admission and recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh which involved businessmen, politicians and other renowned senior officials.

After the unearthing of the scam in 2013, the Medical Council of India and the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board were also served notices by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Following the astounding disclosure, the whistleblower had a miraculous escape from the jaws of death, when a truck hit his car on the Indore-Mhow earlier this month.

Pandey also claims that he was framed by a senior IPS officer for allegedly possessing Call Data Records(CDR) of many individuals, following which he was arrested by the Bhopal Police in August last year.

Moreover, the state government filed a report in the Delhi High Court saying that Pandey holds a criminal background.

Such a desperate reaction by the state government comes after the Madhya Pradesh High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team(SIT), while being supervised by the state’s Special Task Force, discovered the role of senior state government officials and politicians in the scam.

Such a state-led backlash on exposers of truth is not an isolated case of the apathy with which the whistleblowers are treated in the country.

Earlier, in November 2003, Satyendra Dubey, a National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) engineer was murdered after he exposed corruption in the construction of highways.

According to the data compiled by Bloomberg, at least 12 whistleblowers have been killed since January 2010. More than 40 people have been assaulted for seeking information.

Niyamat Ansari, a Jharkhand resident who registered complaints against the winning bidders of the public-works contract under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was dragged from his house and beaten to death.

In spite of such overwhelming cases of gruesome crimes committed against whistleblowers, little action has been undertaken by the government to protect the rights of whistleblowers.

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, a law meant to empower and protect people who report corruption, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 but is still awaiting amendments in the Rajya Sabha.

As per activists, even if the law is passed, it is virtually toothless.

The law does not provide any protection to whistleblowers who disclose information under the Officials Secrets Act, a law which covers documents classified by the government, including defense deals.

Moreover, information termed as “unwarranted invasion of privacy”, will also not be covered under the act.

“The government is going back on its basic moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information to NDTV.

Foreign countries hold a lesson for India in this regard. Strong anti-corruption laws such as the UK Bribery Act and US Corrupt Practices Act curtail the hedonist behaviour to an extent.

In the United Kingdom, The Public Interest Disclosure Act has given significant protection to the whistleblower from the employer.

The United States provides protection from retaliation in cases where whistleblowing is related to a specific topic protected by statute.

India on the other hand, is still struggling hard to put a worthwhile whistleblower protection legislation on the table.

How many more honest lives can India afford to lose, before it wakes up from its slumber?