- Describe the present framework of whistle-blower protection.
- Need for strengthening the framework ?
The people who disclose the wrong-doings are known as ‘Whistle-blowers.’ The Panama Papers leak disclosed information about tax evasion by the Global Rich through offshore entities and shell corporations in tax havens. The Uber Files disclosed the unethical practices of Uber in order to achieve global dominance in the ride-hailing segment. Experts lament that revelations of this scale are not possible in India. They argue that the Whistle-blower Protection law in India is inadequate to give a significant degree of protection to the whistle-blowers. This calls for taking robust measures to improve whistleblower protection framework in India.
What is the Whistleblower Protection Framework in India ? :
- In 2004, the Government introduced the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection Of Informers (PIDPI) Resolution for the logging of complaints against alleged corruption or misuse of office by a Government officer or Department.
- The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was designated as the agency to administer complaints, which it continues to routinely route to its relevant section after masking the name of the whistleblower.
- India became a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, 2005. The Convention talks about the reporting of corruption done by the public or private entities and protecting the spectators and whistle-blowers from the retaliation faced by them.
- Companies Act, 2013: Various Sections (Section 206-229) in the Companies Act, 2013 talk about the inspection and inquiry matters.
- Securities and Exchange Board of India: It mandated that every company listed under SEBI must have a whistleblower policy and have a responsibility to make every employee aware of such policy. From December 2019, SEBI has also introduced a reward mechanism as a kind of inducement to ‘Informants‘ who report a violation of insider trading laws to SEBI.
- Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014: The Act aims to protect people who bring to the notice of the authorities concerned allegations of corruption, misuse of power or commission of a criminal offense against a public servant. Under the Act, every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant. The Act penalizes any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
Need to strengthen Whistle-blowers protection framework ? :
- Augmenting Transparency and Accountability: A strong framework would ensure that the government and its organizations work as per the prescribed code of conduct. It will allow upright employees to come forward and reveal any corrupt activity in the organization.
- Further, Whistle-blower protection can go a long way to enable good corporate governance and provide an early warning system for potential crises, such as the one at IL&FS in India.
- Protecting Citizen Rights: Ensuring whistleblower protection will mean that the State is unable to undermine citizen rights.
- Preventing Hardships to whistle blowers: Under the current regime, whistle-blowers tend to face multiple hardships which restrain many honest individuals to blow the whistle. These include: (a) Livelihood Loss: Whistleblowers are sometimes cornered in an organization and in extreme situations are forced to quit their job. Further, future employers may be reluctant to hire them as they fear that information about their organizations might be revealed; (b) Death Threats: The powerful people whose scams are about to get exposed often resort to giving death threats to whistleblowers and their families.
The Government needs to ensure that whistleblowers are given an enabling ecosystem wherein they are incentivized and not threatened to disclose the illegal practices carried on in any organization. Strengthening the Whistleblower Protection mechanism is necessary to enhance transparency and accountability in public institutions.