working for the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth 
About us
CHOGM Reports
What's New
Commonwealth Human Rights Advocacy
CHRI Events
CHRI in the News
Job Opportunities
Contact us
Site Map

Right to Information: News Updates


Case for whistleblowing law in India

The term `whistle-blowing' is a relatively recent entry into the vocabulary of public and corporate affairs, although the phenomenon itself is not new. It refers to the process by which insiders go public with their claims of malpractices by, or within, organisations - usually after failing to remedy the matters from the inside, and often at great personal risk to themselves. Sometimes the cost of such valiant efforts is just too high to pay.

Satyendra Dubey, was one of those rare young men who was completely and uncomplicatedly honest. He didn't know he was a hero. An engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and working for National Highway Authority of India probably never knew the word but died for simply doing the right thing. Gunned down by the mafia in Gaya on early November 27 morning, nearly a year after he had complained of corruption on the Golden Quadilateral project to the Prime Minister's office. Knowing the dangers that surround honest people bucking the whole corrupt system, in his letter, Dubey had requested that his name be kept secret, a request that wasn't honoured-the letter was sent from the PMO to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways and then to the National Highway Authority of India, with which Dubey was working as Deputy General Manager. His death speaks volumes about the growing nexus between politicians and mafia and also highlights the illegal procedures/ways involved in awarding contracts and also the allegedly fraudulent pre-qualification bids in connection to big development projects.

India has recently passed a federal Freedom of Information Bill in 2003 however it does not have a Whistleblowers Act recommended by the Constitution Review Commission in 2002. Moreover a draft bill on public disclosures recommended by the Law Commission lies in cold storage. Satyendra Dubey's death merits attention and a subsequent Public Interest Litigation urges the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to evolve a system to ensure protection to anybody who complains to the Government against corruption.

Corruption exists all over the world and thrives at all layers of government. Officers who refuse to enter the bandwagon are victimized. In India, the Tehelka expose involving defense deals had not only victimized the reporters involved in the undercover operation but also harassed virtually anybody associated with the portal. In this case, the owner of the Global capital who owned a share in the portal was imprisoned without any concrete charges framed against him. All this was due to the fact that the expose had caught some of the high ups in the ruling coalition taking bribes on camera! More recently, the Labour Government in England had found a scapegoat in Dr David Kelly who was considered a 'mole' in the Ministry of Defence inorder to draw public attention away from the Iraq war. He was named as the source of a disputed BBC report claiming the Downing Street had "sexed up" evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction so as to drive the country into the war with Iraq.

The need and urgency of a whistleblowing act cannot be overemphasized even as Satyendra Dubey's death sparked off widespread public protest. Both in unlettered societies with meager resources as also in the developed world, there is an urgent need both for access to information by the public along with an act that would provide protection to all those who blew the whistle. It is time that the authorities took cognizance of the fact that money associated with development works that usually comes from the tax payers pocket lands up in corrupt hands. In the process development takes the back seat. India cannot afford to lose its money nor its resources. The real heroes of today's world are honest people. They are few and far between. They are the ones society is longing to follow. But everywhere it sees them fail. Yet the world, and developing countries especially cannot afford to loseits honest officers who stand up against all odds and risk their lives. It is time the government thinks about cleaning its system by providing protection to all those ordinary people who dares to bare open facts and has a stake at country's future. Mere assurance from the Prime Minister that the guilty wouldn't be spared is not enough---either to the citizens or to Dubey's family. If the government really means business it has to go about demonstrating that there are systems in place for good people to rely on. We need a fast and efficient judiciary to handover judgments in fair and impartial manner with or without political and social pressure, and a clean and unbiased police that will come to the aid of those working on the right side of the law; we also need public knowledge about the constitution and rule of law; and laws that will encourage people in both urban and rural areas to come forward without any fear to usher in an era of transparency, accountability and participation in the governance of the country. We need a system, a society where a person can do its duty without fear and the head held high. If the government really intends to deliver such a nation, then it is time the government pulled up its sleeves and makes concrete efforts to pass a whistleblowers act. It follows that no measure to curb government and corporate transgressions in India or elsewhere will bear fruit unless legal immunity and protection against retaliation is given to responsible and conscientious whistleblowing.


Dubey Murder: Full coverage: