High court pulls up Goa government for hounding ‘whistleblower’

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The Bombay high court at Goa pulled up the state on Monday for hounding a government employee who blew whistle on state-run sewerage corporation, which was discharging untreated sewage into a low lying water body, with the help of official documents. The court said it was unfortunate that the government filed a case of theft of documents against the employee in 2012 displaying intent to shoot the messenger instead of acting on the message.

“You should welcome such government servants. Instead of hounding the messenger you should take the message. [Why] go against this person. This is not the way. You should [instead] reward him. Are these some documents under the Official Secrets Act?” the high court asked the state government and added: “Instead of remedying the situation, you are going after the government servant.”

A staff nurse at the Goa Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, Uday Chari, exposed the sewerage corporation’s malpractice in 2012 using field water quality test reports that he obtained without authorisation.

The reports proved that the public works department was releasing untreated sewage into the open water bodies and fields, leading to water contamination beyond permissible limits, resulting in stench and pollution of the creek in the outskirts of the capital city.

The state slapped him with a case of theft of documents and it has been pending ever since. Chari in 2020 approached the high court seeking quashing of the FIR filed against him.

“The very ingredients necessary for this case to be registered as a theft were not made out and further this was a case only to victimise me for taking up this issue,” Advocate Ryan Menezes, who represented Chari told the court.

While hearing Chari’s plea, the HC asked if the state government was beyond criticism.

“You are pursuing this from 2012 and 2021. Are you trying to say that if somebody goes against the government then you will file complaints against them? Do the government departments have no other work?” the bench of justices M S Sonak and M S Jawalikar, said.

The Goa government stuck to its stand and said a government servant was free to take up a public cause “but it had to be[done] through public channels.”

“The offence is made out and there is no case for quashing,” advocate G Nagvenkar told the court.

After hearing the government’s argument the HC said it was “inclined to quash the prosecution”.

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