What do Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Ashok Khemka have in common? All of them exposed and leaked information about illegal activities. In simple terms they are whistleblowers.
A whistleblower is an individual, who is either an employee of a company or a government agency.
They disclose information to the public or some higher authority about any illegal activity, which could be fraud, corruption, etc.
Edward Joseph Snowden is an American whistle-blower. He leaked highly classified data from the National Security Agency in 2013 when he was a CIA agent and subcontractor.
Julian Assange is an editor and investigative journalist.
In 2006 he founded WikiLeaks WikiLeaks gained international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning.
These leaks included the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, among many other issues.
Ashok Khemka is a senior IAS officer, an Indian computer scientist and an economist. He is best known for cancelling Robert Vadra's illegal land deal in Gurgaon.
"Whistleblowers endanger not only their lives but also the lives of their families when they expose influential people."
Satyendra Dubey was an Indian Engineering Service officer. He was a whistleblower in India and was killed in Gaya, Bihar in 2010.
He tried to combat corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral Highway construction project. After his death, the government had to consider a law to protect people who expose corruption in India.
Whistleblowers Protection Act in India, 2014
This act provides a tool to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants. Also, it protects people who expose wrongdoing in government bodies, projects, and other areas.
The wrongdoing might be in the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement. Furthermore, the Act ensures punishment for false complaints.
The Whistleblower Act in India was approved by the cabinet of India as part of a drive to eliminate corruption in the country's bureaucracy. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011.
Rajya Sabha passed this bill on 21 February 2014.
Complaints should include the identity of the complainant.
But the Vigilance Commission cannot reveal the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department, and only if it is necessary.
The Whistleblower policy in India penalizes people who disclose the identity of the complainant.
How to protect yourself as a whistleblower
Gather and store all the relevant information in a safe place.
Establish yourself as a reliable and credible source.
It is best if you do not disclose about the illegal activities to anyone except the complaint committee. But if you have to, then be careful about whom you disclose, to avoid retaliation.
Choose a trustworthy journalist. They can help provide more exposure to crime.
Know your rights, statute of limitations, and the whistleblower policy in India.
Additionally, whistleblowers can use encryption methods and anonymous content sharing software to protect their identity.
Steps To Whistleblowing Process
The whistleblower should have hard evidence that a corporation or a government contractor, has knowingly indulged in corruption or fraud.
Evidence needs to have the following data: names and contact information of the people involved in the wrongdoing, laws that they believe are being violated,
and the location of incriminating documents.
Whistleblowers should keep the information confidential and avoid discussing it with anyone other than a trusted lawyer.
Cases like these often take a long time to resolve, so the whistleblower should prepare for a lengthy process.
Companies and people do not take allegations of wrongdoing lightly. So the whistleblower should prepare for the personal and professional backlash.
Whistleblowers should find a new job as soon as possible. They can get a bad reputation, which can affect getting a new job. So getting a new job before that happens is important.
They should find a capable lawyer for legal help.
Corruption in India leads to the loss of a lot of taxpayer's money. Whistleblowers expose these crimes that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Thus, whistleblowers are the real heroes of our times. Find out more about other ways of fighting corruption.