Travesty of justice?

The award of life imprisonment to three persons for the murder of Satyendra Kumar Dubey, a National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) engineer, in 2003 does not answer all questions raised by the case. The relatives of Dubey and others who took up the cause of the whistle-blower have found the investigation undertaken by the CBI and the trial of the accused in a Patna court deficient and have charged that they were marked by cover-up and miscarriage of justice. The case which was fast-tracked in view of the national uproar created by the murder of a conscientious young man who had exposed corruption in the execution of national highways projects, took about seven years to be decided. The culprits who have been convicted are petty criminals and they have been found guilty of robbery and murder, unconnected to the threats Dubey had faced.
It is difficult to believe that Dubey was the victim of a highway robbery when there were circumstances that made it clear that he had made powerful enemies in the contractor-official network. He had also received a number of threats to his life. The letter he wrote to the then prime minister A B Vajpayee about corruption in highway projects and requesting confidentiality was circulated across many government departments and his identity had been exposed. The men who have been convicted could only have pulled the trigger and those who planned the murder might still be roaming free. That demoralises everyone within the government and outside who thinks it is his or her duty to expose corruption.

There have been other cases also of whistle-blowers coming to grief and even paying with their lives for their integrity and courage. An Indian Oil Corporation executive, Manjunath Shanmugham, was killed in 2005 for his action against sale of adulterated fuel. In this case death penalty was awarded to the main accused. An RTI activist was killed Pune in January for exposing the land mafia. The government has still not put in place a law to give protection to whistle-blowers and to set up a machinery which would handle complaints of official corruption without exposing the complainants to harassment and danger to life. A government order which was issued in 2004 for this has not been found effective. The entire scheme of the legislation is ready and there is no reason why the government should delay it.

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