#India – Who Is Qualified To Be A Whistleblower ?

In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has argued about the basic qualifications required to expose wrongdoings by organisations. Reports Ankit Agrawal

Last month a two member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice MY Eqbal of the Supreme Court of India gave it’s verdict on the civilian case of Manoj H Mishra v/s Union of India and Others. The civil suit was filed by Mishra to contest his sacking from the Kakarapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP) at Surat, Gujarat.

Mishra was working as a tradesman at the power-plant when on the night of 15 July 1994 Surat recorded an unprecedented rainfall of 480mm in 10 hours, causing massive flooding inside the complex. More than 25 feet of the turbine, adjacent to the nuclear reactors, was submerged before dawn. In fact, some of the barrels that contained nuclear waste were also washed away by the floodwater. Even though, the emergency was declared on the next day, due procedures, which includes alerting State authorities and deputing assistant health physicist to check contamination and radiation, weren’t implemented. Worried, Mishra wrote a letter to the editor of  Gujrat Samachar  mentioning flooding inside the nuclear facility, improper safety precautions and flouting of Action Plan for Site Emergency. Pointing towards corruption, he demanded an inquiry by a high-level committee. Subsequebntly, he was sacked by the inquiry committee for criticising the project and passing confidential information to the media.

Mishra contented this punishment in lower, high and the Supreme Court and argued that he acted as whistleblower keeping in mind the best interest of people and the nuclear facility. While dismissing his case the SC delved into the concept of whistleblower and referred to the Indirect Tax Practitioners v/s RK Jain, which defines whistleblower as “a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption.” Following this reference Justice Nijjar observed in judgement, “In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant. It is a matter of record that the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whiste blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as a whistleblower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistleblower.” The court further says that Mishra breached confidentiality agreement by alleging about widespread corruption in the organisation.

RTI and whistleblowers protection activists are miffed following the judgment. Prashan Bhushan, a senior advocate, who appeared for Mishra in the court, termed this judgment a “fallacy of justice”. He said, “By informing the media about the near-catastrophic accident and poor response by the authorities, Mishra did a public duty therefore he was a whistleblower.” Shekhar Singh, RTI activist, points out two dangerous points in the judgment, expertise of the whistleblower and purity in motive. He says, “What is the sort of expertise one wants to be a whistle blower? The judgement falls flat when compared to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011 as it doesn’t have any mention about the purity of intention. Important thing is to expose the wrongdoing.”

Gujarat PSUs gave undue benefits to business houses: CAG


The CAG detailed undue favours to Reliance Industries Ltd, Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd. It also highlighted that the state government has tweaked rules to grant land to Ford India Pvt Ltd as well as Larson and Toubro Ltd
CAG Vinod Rai

Gandhinagar, Apr 2 (PTI): The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that government-owned firms in Gujarat granted “undue benefit” to big industrial houses, which resulted in revenue losses worth crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

The CAG report, for the year ended March 31, 2012, was tabled on Tuesday in the Gujarat State Assembly. The CAG detailed undue favours to Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd (APL). It also highlighted that the state government has tweaked rules to grant land to Ford India Pvt Ltd as well as Larson and Toubro Ltd.

“Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) was responsible for deviating from the agreed terms of recovery of gas transportation charges from the specified entry point of the company’s pipeline network and this led to passing of undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL,” the CAG report said.

CAG was of the view that GSPL has failed to safeguard its own interest, leading to passing on undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL. GSPL had entered into a gas transportation agreement (GTA) with RIL transport D6 gas from Bhadbhut in Bharuch district to RIL’s refinery in Jamnagar in March, 2007.

However, when RIL began transporting gas from its KG-D6 field to its refinery, GSPL did not invoke GTA terms and instead charged RIL a single rate on the quantity transported, thereby passing of undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL.

Similarly, it has also highlighted that Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) was involved in non-adherence to terms of the power purchase agreement (PPA), which led to short recovery of penalty of Rs 160.26 crore and passing of undue benefit to Adani Power Ltd (APL).

On the other hand, the CAG report observed that GUVNL recovered a penalty of only Rs 79.82 crore from APL for its failure to supply power and also for the short supply of power against GUVNL’s entitlement in the power generated by APL during August 2009 to January 2012.

CAG also took strong exceptions to the Gujarat government regularising alleged encroachment of 7,24,897 sq mts of land by Essar Steel Company Ltd (ESCL) at Hazira in Surat, at the same price as government alloted land to L&T near ESCL, which resulted in short recovery of ad hoc occupancy price to the extent of Rs 238.50 crore.

“Government land measuring 7,24,897 square metres was encroached by ESCL in Hazira, Surat district. On request of the company, the government decided in July 2009, to regularise the encroachment by levy of 2.5 times of ad hoc value of land at Rs 700 per square metre, on the ground that, the land in a nearby area was given to L&T,” the CAG report said.

“We noticed that Rs 700 per square metre considered by the government for working out the ad hoc value was not justifiable,” the CAG report said.

“When pointed out, the government replied in June 2012, that as the company was incurring loss of Rs 200 crore per day, due to delay in completion of the project, an ad hoc price of Rs 700 per square metre was fixed,” it said.

In its report, CAG also alleged “playing around rules” by the state government to grant land to Ford and L&T at concessional rates.

As per the report, the state government had allotted around 460 acres (18,63,687 square feet) of land valued at Rs 205 crore to Ford India Pvt Ltd “for the purpose of establishment of a mega project of automobile and engineering for manufacture of automobiles at the rate of Rs 1,100 per square feet, fixed by the State Level Approval Committee (SLAC)”.

It observed that the SLAC had not been empowered to fix the rate of land for allotment to mega projects (above Rs 1,000 crore investment).

After the discrepancy was pointed out, the government replied that the SLAC had decided the value of land, based on some concrete facts, which is an SLAC practice and the price was also approved by the Cabinet.

The CAG said that the reply from the government is not acceptable, since SLAC is not empowered to do valuation of land.

It also recommended that the state government follow a uniform policy for allotment of government land to safeguard its revenue and public interest at large.

CAG also highlighted the case of allotment of land to L&T measuring 8,53,247 square metres at Hazira, Surat for setting up facilities for manufacture of super critical steam generators and a forging shop for a nuclear power plant.

A District Level Valuation Committee (DLVC) had recommended the rate as Rs 1,000 to 1,050 per sq mt. As the value of the land exceeded Rs 50 lakh, the revenue department sent the case to the SLVC for valuation. The SLVC recommended the rate at Rs 2,020 in September 2007 and the revenue department forwarded the proposal to the state Cabinet, prescribing the same rate.

CAG noted that the cabinet, in February 2008, granted a special concession of 30 per cent on the value of land fixed by the DLVC and allotted the land at Rs 700 to Rs 735 per square metre, as it considered the project “high tech” and “of national importance” as well as the first of its kind in Gujarat.

“It was seen from the above that the concession was granted on the price of land recommended by the DLVC. Thus, non-adoption of the value of land fixed by SLVC, resulted in loss of revenue of Rs 60.66 crore even after granting 30 per cent concession on the final value of land fixed by SLVC. The percentage of concession worked out to 65.20 per cent on price fixed by SLVC,” the CAG report said.


Fake #Aadhaar card scam busted in Surat #UID


TNN | Mar 17, 2013,
SURAT: Police busted a fake Aadhar card form collection unit in Mahidharpura area on Saturday. Four persons were arrested for making fake Aadhar cards and cheating people of around Rs 45,000.
Out of the four accused, two are employees of an official Aadhar card-making contract agency and were using officially provided equipments to cheat people.
Police arrested Naresh Patel, Shahid Aamdani, Tushar Narol and Salim Shaikh for allegedly running the form collection centre and collecting money from victims. They collected Rs 300 per form from the victims. Interestingly, government charges no fees for Aadhar card.
Around 150 filled up forms were recovered from the centre and police believe that the accused collected Rs 45,000 from the victims.
They claimed that they are the official agency to collect data for Aadhar card and issued form. Of the arrested accused, Patel and Aamdani are employees of an Aadhar card contract agency based in Ahmedabad but are residents of Surat. Both were posted at Indore and Ujjain. After finishing their work, the accused did not return the company’s laptop and came directly to Surat. They used the laptops for cheating people. Patel and Aamdani, both resident of Surat planned the racket in association with Narol and Shaikh.
Police seized two laptops, two biometric finger print scanner, eye scanner and two web cameras. The accused were running the network in Gurukrupa apartment in Khansaheb Dela of Mahidharpura.
Patel and Narol are resident of Katargam area of the city while Aamdani is resident of Lalgate and Shaikh is resident of Rampura area of the city.
The scam came to light following a complaint by a citizen Prassanjeet Jaray, who was told that the government does not charge any fees for Aadhar cards.



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