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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Who let the details out?

The debate over the Ranjit Sinha diary case shows that India needs to strengthen its witness protection setup.

comment Updated: Sep 21, 2014 22:44 IST

Hindustan Times

The Ranjit Sinha visitors’ diary case is turning out to be a top-of-the-rack detective thriller. Mr Sinha, the CBI director, has not only questioned the existence of the visitors’ logbook but also claimed that 90% of the entries were fudged and some were made even when he was away.

Mr Sinha submitted his affidavit after the Supreme Court asked him to file a response to the application filed by the Centre for Public Interest and Litigation (CPIL), an NGO, which had asked the court to remove him from supervising the 2G spectrum probe following allegations that he met several executives from companies under investigation in the case. The SC also asked the NGO to furnish the name(s) of the whistleblower(s) who leaked the vital information. But lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who appeared on behalf of the NGO, refused to do so, saying naming the person could endanger many lives.

The case is a critical one, and as we had mentioned earlier in this space, the CBI director must come clean. As for Mr Bhushan’s stand, while it is strange that he is refusing the divulge names even to the apex court, one can understand his predicament: Leaks do happen despite the best measures and if that happens, they will jeopardise the lives of many. Remember what happened to National Highways Authority of India engineer Satyendra Dubey? He was murdered after he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s office detailing corruption in the construction of highways. In his letter, he had requested that his identity be kept secret and yet the letter was sent out to various government departments without masking Dubey’s identity.

India now has a Whistleblowers Protection Act, yet it would not be wrong to say that their safety can never be guaranteed. This is because the rules required to implement the law are yet to be framed, rendering the provisions useless. If there is one lesson in the Sinha case, it is this: Passing a law is not enough; implementing it without delay is key. If the provisions had been in place and everyone was confident about the strength of the ‘shield’, Mr Bhushan would probably not have dithered to give out the names of the brave whistleblowers.

First Published: Sep 21, 2014 22:42 IST

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