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Analysis

Updated on: Friday, November 26, 2021, 09:06 AM IST

The big question: What happened to The Whistle Blowers Act?, writes Olav Albuquerque

The provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code which protect policemen while discharging their duty from prosecution is grossly abused by the police to ignore court directives and quite often even court summonses until a warrant for their arrest is issued
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Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh is a whistle-blower of which there can be no doubt. It was Singh’s letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray levelling explosive allegations against Singh's boss, former home minister Anil Deshmukh, that landed the latter in jail. In revenge, Deshmukh signed an order for a probe against Singh before resigning.

In 2017, in what came to be known as Parivartan versus Union of India, the judgment of the Supreme Court was publicised in all law journals where the observation of the judges that the Union government was delaying the coming into force of The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011. This new law had been passed by both houses of Parliament and even been approved by the President on May 9, 2014.

It is obvious that the government did not want to ensure this law would come into force because too many skeletons would come out, destabilising those who rule us. The archaic Official Secrets Act, 1927 which is the very antithesis of The Right to Information Act, 2005 and The Whistle Blowers Act, 2011 continues to be in force. Every minister and Governor takes the oath to uphold the Constitution and not to reveal state secrets. But what constitutes a state secret is itself the greatest secret of all.

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 may have afforded some relief to Param Bir Singh and other public servants from being harassed by the government if they “leaked” what was dirty within the government. The provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code which protect policemen while discharging their duty from prosecution is grossly abused by the police to ignore court directives and quite often even court summonses until a warrant for their arrest is issued. Policemen are notorious for not discharging their duties. Jailed policeman Sachin Waze is the norm and not the exception.

In the 2017 Parivartan judgment, it was pointed out that the Central Vigilance Commission simply relies upon the report submitted by the state chief vigilance officers of the concerned ministries before deciding its next course of action. Of course, when the person being accused of extorting Rs 100 crore per month from dance bars and restaurants in Mumbai, is the former home minister himself, the chief vigilance officer of Maharashtra will be rendered impotent. Such things emerge only when there are different political parties in power in the centre and in the state.

The very fact that the Enforcement Directorate has summoned Maharashtra chief secretary, Sitaram Kunte, on Thursday to record his statement in connection with the money laundering charges Param Bir Singh has levelled against Deshmukh, prove the sting of the allegations. Kunte, of course, will plead both ignorance and innocence. This is hard to believe because he heads the Home Department which appoints the Director General of Police and signs all top police transfers and postings. That IAS is an acronym for I Agree Sir may apply to Kunte.

All this rot makes a mockery of our fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed by Article 21 because if IPS officers have to shell out crores of rupees for their postings, then they will obey their political bosses who allegedly used to order how investigations were to be carried out, according to Param Bir Singh. The government has followed the due process of law by registering four FIRs against Singh -- but only after he publicised his explosive revelations against Deshmukh. The question is, was the due process of law followed or a charade made of the due process of law to make an example of Param Bir for all IPS and IAS officers?

Param Bir is perhaps being protected by some politician whose interests are inimical to the NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress combine in Maharshtra. The same way renegade Madras High Court judge, Justice CS Karnan, was protected by top politicians after he was given the maximum sentence of six months for committing contempt of court for levelling unfounded allegations against judges of the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court.

Unlike Karnan, whose allegations lacked substance, Singh’s allegations expose the filthy rot within the government where top police postings were allegedly up for sale, if media reports are to be believed.

Param Bir fears he will be bumped off because he knows too much about certain politicians. The law enforcing agencies which always act at the behest of those in power, are not in any hurry to record his statement knowing fully well that he will make more damning indictments of those-in-power. The CBI chief, Subodh Jaiswal, knows very well what Param Bir is revealing is correct. But learning from his experience, he will never speak out, because he wants to retire in peace which is what the government will never allow Singh to do.

When a government comes to power, it is an open secret that there are some portfolios which are deemed to be “lucrative” portfolios just as some favored customs and police officers can get “lucrative” postings such as the airport zone or the port zone. They can then recover what they have allegedly paid certain ministers to get these “lucrative” postings.

The Supreme Court has departed from its laid-down law of ensuring a fugitive surrender before it before even considering granting anticipatory bail. Of course, Param Bir divulged he was holed up in Chandigarh which is a big city making it very difficult for the law-enforcing agencies to unearth him. What happens next will be worth watching like the sequel after the interval of the Hindi box-office thriller Sholay.

Olav Albuquerque holds a Ph.D in law and is a senior journalist-cum-advocate of the Bombay High Court.

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Published on: Friday, November 26, 2021, 09:06 AM IST
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