Whistleblower Protection In Re: Prashant Bhushan’s Advocacy

Prashant Bhushan’s advocacy in the SC in re. Ranjit Sinha’s case has brought in an interesting issue to the fore; i.e., what is the protection available to a whistleblower/informer of the commission of an offence when the information is made not to a police officer or a magistrate but to an advocate through his client? An advocate is an officer of the court but also has a duty towards his client. As per sec 126 of the Evidence Act, he is not permitted to disclose the contents of any communicaton made to him by his client or the content and condition of any document received during the course of his employment except by the express consent of his client. So, unlike in the case of a police officer or a magistrate, he can’t be forced by the court to disclose information (even in a sealed envelope) about an informer to an offence if the information was received confidentially by him from his client. Eventually, a magistrate is the authority to take cognizance, and he can do so under Sec 190(c) CrPC on the information received from an advocate even if there is no formal complaint from the whistle blower or the client; of course, the magistrate can establish the authenticity of the information before taking cognizance. The same would apply to all higher courts including the SC, but, of course, the SC wouldn’t take cognizance of an offence but would limit itself to holding and monitoring the enquiry for establishing the authenticity of the information, and then it would leave it to the magistrial court to take cognizance vide Zakia Jafri case. The only question is how liberal or conservative the SC wants to be in a particular case, and, most importantly, whether the information per se, if found authentic, would lead to an offence. Whatever, but the whistle blower is protected under our present legal scheme from the disclosure of his identity if he approaches an advocate with the information of the commission of an offence in connection with a case in which the advocate has a duty towards his client and the client makes no formal complaint of the offence.

About the Author

Ankur Mutreja
Ankur Mutreja is an advocate-cum-writer, and his blogs are amongst his modes of expression. He has also authored six books: "Kerala Hugged"; "Light: Philosophy"; "Flare: Opinions"; "Sparks: Satire and Reviews"; "Writings @ Ankur Mutreja"; and "Nine Poems"; which can be downloaded free from the links on the top menu.

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