BIG LACUNA OF CURRENT BILL DRAFT: Public Interest Disclosure and Protection Bill 2010 (PIDP 2010) goes into operation only when disclosure is made to CVC or SVC. This cannot work, just as RTI Act cannot work if every RTI application is made to CIC or SIC. Because of pendency, and also because CVC/SVC are far removed from the ground realities, corrective action may be directed to happen after 2-3 years at best, by when it may be too late to avert consequences including financial losses and deaths. (Let us think in the context of Bhopal gas tragedy, Commonwealth Games, import of faulty bulletproof jackets, artillery equipment etc.)
REMEDY: PIDP must enable CVCs/SVCs to delegate responsibility. It must go into action in a more diffused and immediate way closer to the ground, reflecting the way a whistleblower normally acts. It must spread the onus for corrective action, by putting the onus first on designated “Public Interest Disclosure Officers”, and secondly, the various heads of public authorities. Also, the onus to act should be time-bound.
Only after this should it fall upon the CVC or SVC to ensure compliance and remedial measures. How to do this? The RTI Act has already shown us the way.
DETAILS OF IMPLEMENTATION:
(1) PUBLIC INTERESTED DISCLOSURE INSPECTOR: Every public authority must designate one or more Public Interest Disclosure Officer (PIDO), mandated by the Act to receive and investigate Public Interest Disclosure (PID) applications. The existence of a PID application format and a PIDO will legitimize whistle-blowing at the micro-level and institutional level. PIDO should be mandated to acknowledge the PID application within 15 days, and investigate it within 45 days.
(2) BOTTOM-UP PENALTIES: PIDO should submit the investigation report (made in the context of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and other relevant IPC sections) within a total of 90 days to the head of authority, PID applicant and State or Central Vigilance Commissioner. If no report, then defined penalty should automatically fall upon PIDO.
(3) REMEDIAL ACTION BY HEAD OF AUTHORITY: Upon receipt of report, head of authority should be mandated to initiate remedial action within 30 days. If head of authority fails to take remedial action, or alternatively, fails to prefer a reasoned appeal to Vigilance Commissioner within 30 days, then defined penalty should automatically fall on chief of authority.
(4) CVC TO BE APPELLATE AUTHORITY: Upon receipt of appeal from Applicant or head of public authority, CVC/SVC must send a Vigilance Inspector to the office of the public authority to hold a hearing in-situ. He should enjoy “inspector-like” powers to take copies of documents, photograph and videotape actual conditions, interrogate witnesses etc. Inspector will then give his report to CVC/SVC with copies to all concerned. If he fails to do so within 30 days, then penalty should fall on Vigilance Inspector
(5) DISPOSAL OF APPEAL BASED ON ON-THE-SPOT INVESTIGATIONS: Based on Vigilance Inspector’s report, CVC or SVC will either order specific remedial measures, and punitive measures, or close the case.
These are in addition to a detailed representation made to DOPT on 30 September, which speaks of other measures to make the PIDP Bill or whistleblowers’ bill effective.