Anti-corruption movement to get boost under Central Law
State never paid serious attention to check harassment
JAMMU, Aug 28: Anti-corruption movement is all set to get major boost in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as whistleblowers, who help shed light on corrupt practices by public servants, would get legal protection against any sort of victimization under the Central Law, which will become applicable to both the proposed Union Territories from November 1, 2019 onwards.
Whistleblowers act as early warning system and help to uncover corruption and combat illegal activities in any organization. While performing this vital role in the anti-corruption movement, they become vulnerable to abuse as such need proper protection.
However, this aspect never received due attention in Jammu and Kashmir as a result of which whistleblowers are facing official apathy and are being treated as ‘persona-non-grata’ although on the basis of their information and cooperation the Anti-Corruption Bureau (formerly State Vigilance Organization) has been able to identify corrupt elements in the administration and successfully conduct trap cases.
The only step which the Government had initiated to ensure prevention of harassment to whistleblowers was issuance of circular instructions on March 31, 2008 asking all the Administrative Secretaries and Heads of the Departments to advise the officials working under their supervision and control not to show official apathy or unsympathetic attitude towards whistleblowers and attend to their legitimate work and demands in an objective manner.
From November 1, 2019 onwards, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014, which was enacted by the Union Government to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to corruption or wilful misuse of power against any public servant and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint, will become applicable to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh as per the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 passed by the Parliament early this month.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of Official Secrets Act, any public servant or any other person including any Non-Governmental Organization may make a public interest disclosure before the competent authority and any disclosure made under this Act shall be treated as public interest disclosure”, read Whistle Blowers Protection Act.
Under this Act, every disclosure is required to be made in writing or by electronic mail or electronic mail message in accordance with the procedure and be accompanied by supporting documents or other materials, if any.
In order to check frivolous complaints, the Act states: “No action shall be taken on public interest disclosure by the competent authority if the disclosure doesn’t indicate the identity of the complainant or public servant or the identity of the complainant or of public servant is found incorrect or false”.
About safeguards against victimization of whistleblowers, the Act states: “The Government shall ensure that no person or a public servant who has made a disclosure under this Act is victimized by initiation of any proceedings or otherwise merely on the ground that such a person or a public servant had made a disclosure or rendered assistance in the inquiry under this Act”.
If any person is being victimized or likely to be victimized on the ground that he had filed a complaint or made disclosure or rendered assistance in inquiry under this Act, he/she many file an application before the competent authority, which shall take action as deemed fit and may give suitable directions to the concerned public servant or the public authority to protect such person from being victimized, read the Act.
It has explicitly been mentioned in the Act that the competent authority shall conceal the identity of the complainant and the documents or information furnished by him for the purposes of inquiry unless so decided otherwise by the competent authority itself or it becomes necessary to reveal or produce the same by virtue of the order of the court.
“Any person, who negligently or malafidely reveals the identity of the complainant shall, without prejudice to the other provisions of the Act, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also to fine which may extend to Rs 50,000”, the Act states.
There is also a provision of punishment for false or frivolous disclosure whereby any person who makes any disclosure malafidely and knowingly that it was incorrect or false or misleading, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years and also to fine which may extend up to Rs 30,000.
It is pertinent to mention here that the competent authority under this Act shall have all the powers of the civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure in respect of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath; requiring the discovery and production of any document; receiving evidence on affidavits and requisitioning any public record or copy from any court or office etc.