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Archive for September, 2014

Shooting the messenger

First published in The Hindu

Though there is a law in place to “protect” people coming forward to expose corruption, the safety of whistle-blowers cannot be guaranteed in India


whistleblower

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

The Supreme Court’s insistence that the identity of the secret informer — who gave the copy of the entry registers of the official residence of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, exposing his meetings with 2G spectrum scam accused — be revealed, has the potential to seriously deter anonymous whistle-blowing in India. The lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, who submitted the document against the CBI chief in the form of an affidavit in the on-going investigations into the 2G scam, will now have to satisfy the court regarding the veracity of the evidence. The court, for its part, has taken recourse to the justification that court rules obligate every person filing an affidavit to disclose the source of his/her information. It has sought the information in a sealed cover.

Though there is a law in place with the apparent intention to “protect” people coming forward to expose corruption, the safety of whistle-blowers cannot be guaranteed in India. In an affidavit filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) on September 18, the appellants have noted that “revealing the identity of informants in the corruption case would not only be a breach of trust on the part of the organisation, but would also tantamount to putting them under serious risk of bodily harm, harassment or victimisation.” It has further argued that revealing the identity of the whistle-blower is not pertinent, as in most cases involving public interest, the court “has taken cognisance of information placed before it without asking the source of the information from the petitioners.” It cites the example of a bench headed by Justice J.S. Verma who never asked for the source of the ‘Jain diary’ in the Hawala case and yet ordered a court-monitored investigation into the Vineet Narain case (1998) 1 SCC 226.

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