Does this Bill apply to a public disclosure in the private sector or does it not? I want a very categorical answer. I see Section 19. Then, there is a provision for punishment to executives of private companies. But when I see Section 4, as far as the obligation to disclosure is concerned, then I don’t see private sector being there because there is a case of registered cooperative society, there is a case of a government company; there is a case of a minister, departments, MPs, MLAs, Universities’ Vice-Chancellors.
But does a non-government, public or private company, come within the ambit of disclosure? It is a little ambiguous. I would like to have clarity on that.
The second is, the CVC is the competent authority. Sir, I have the highest regard for the office of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. But what is the authority of the CVC? At best, it is recommendatory.
What happened to Mr. Thomas, we all know. What kind of comments Supreme Court had to offer, we need not go into that. Past is history, but when you discuss a Bill of such seminal importance, you cannot completely ignore as to what has happened in the past.
Now, the authority of the CVC is indeed, very important. The CVC should not be merely a recommendatory body. What kind of rights have we given additionally to the CVC, apart from giving direction in the case of a particular whistleblower being victimised? Why is it important? Who is the competent authority before whom complaint can be filed in the event of corruption in a private sector?
Hon. Minister, this issue, is indeed, very important that today, private sector is playing a very crucial role in the economic development of India. We welcome that.
We have the PPP model, the Public-Private Partnership model. We have other models. Now, if in the award of contract, if in the award of any particular tender, if in the award of any particular work, there has been a lot of corruption in the meaning of the Prevention of Corruption Act. There has been a lot of wilful, I would say demeanor or wilful kind of action which led to a loss to the government as enshrined in the Prevention of Corruption Act, Section 13. What is the remedy available to a whistleblower under the present Act? This clarity has to be there.
Sir, now we are believing in an open government. Yes, there is a conventional view that RTI is creating problem in administration, whistleblower will create problem in administration, Lokpal will create problems in administration. It may have a logic, but I don’t believe it because the growth of the country has seen that with the activism of judiciary to the instrument of public interest litigation, when governmental decision became subject to frequent challenges before the court, the growth did not stop.
And if you see the growth chart of India, maybe, in coalition government, the biggest chart began post-1991 as well. Therefore, to say that these kinds of interventions in the form of PIL, in the form of RTI, in the form of Lokpal, in the form of whistleblower would impede growth, is, I would say, not a correct way of looking at it. Maybe, your discretions would be circumscribed; maybe, your reckless abuse of power would be controlled. If that is controlled, that is good for India.
Therefore, hon. Minister, the private sector is a very important issue about which I would like to know from you because we have a whole range of corruption in many of the private sector companies, not only in their dealings between the companies per se but also in the dealings between them and the government.
You must have seen that in the whole 2G, coal blocks allocation, the private sector was interacting with the government. They were the people who were the beneficiaries of hurried licences given in a manner buried by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, we saw as to how they make quick money. Tapanbabu, I am opposed to Marxism but, at least, one phrase I have learnt to admire, ‘crony capitalism’. And what India witnesses is crony capitalism. We all are supportive of our enterprise of our people, of companies, of private sector entrepreneurs, but who want to toil and rise in the country through fair means should not be put behind by means foul to the instrument of crony capitalism. That is the real irony of India and that is the real agony of India. ...(Interruptions)...
Therefore, these instruments of RTI or the whistleblowers or the Lokpal or the amending provisions of the Corruption Act, are instruments which in that way strengthen the whole process. Sir, the specific question more on the law itself is that you have Clause 4 and you have Clause 8. Now I trust that you are coming with some amendments because in Clause 4 anything can be disclosed. We are all for a very strong Whistle Blowers Act, we do not want it to be diluted, but I must caution you, Mr. Minister, it should not become an instrument of plaything against India's strategic interests in the hands of those who want to weaken it. Therefore, in our Constitution under Article 92 there is a provision of security of India, integrity of India, there is a need to bring it here...(Interruptions)... I am grateful.
Maybe, this incitement to violence, if some one wants to have some information with a view to incite people to violence, commit communal carnage, these are the issues which need to be addressed. I can also understand friendly relations with foreign countries. But there I have one caveat and that is a very important caveat. I hope Tapanji recognises what I am going to say on that. Bofors came from Sweden.
Hon. Minister, you will recognise that and genuine exposure of cases relating to India in a foreign country should not be blocked on the ground of friendly relations with foreign countries. That is the caution I would like to administer at the very outset here.
Excerpts from a speech made by Ravishankar Prasad of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011, in the Rajya Sabha on August 14