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WHISTLE BLOWER POLICY

A) Objective:

The principles of Trust through Transparency and Accountability are at the core of Shiksha’s (hereinafter known as “the Company‟) existence. To ensure strict compliance with ethical and legal standards across the company, the present policy has been created.

The objectives of this Policy are:

  •  To create a window for any person who observes an unethical practice either organizationally or individually to be able to raise it.
  • To encourage timely, safe, and open reporting of alleged wrong doings or suspected impropriety
  • To ensure consistent and timely institutional response
  • To ensure appropriate reporting of whistle-blower investigations and
  • To encourage ethical and lawful conduct
B) Scope

This policy defines and lays down the process for raising a “complaint”, the safeguards in place for the person raising a complaint, the roles and responsibilities of all stake holders and also sets the timelines for all processes to be followed.

In all instances, the Company retains the prerogative to determine when circumstances warrant an investigation and, in conformity with this policy and applicable laws and regulations, the appropriate investigative process to be employed.

Complaints related to any only unethical business conduct or illegal acts will be dealt by Whistleblower policy.
Any complaints related to HR issues or issues related to sexual harassment will be forwarded to the Internal /POSH Committee.
This policy covers all employees, third party vendors, consultants, and customers throughout the world, operating out of any location of the Company.

C) Definitions
  • Whistle-blower: A person or entity making a disclosure of any unethical activity that they have observed which includes violation of any law or code of conduct or any company policy. Whistle-blowers could be contractors, contractor’s employees, clients, vendors, internal or external auditors, law enforcement /regulatory agencies or other third parties.
  • Complaint: The reporting of any such unethical activity or violation to the Ethics Committee by a whistle-blower as defined above made in good faith would constitute a complaint.
  • Ombudsperson: Any agency / individual / department appointed to independently carry out an initial investigation of the complaints lodged by employees, vendors, customers or consultants of Shiksha.
D) Policy Details

It is the duty of all employees to notify the company if they observe, or learn of, any unethical business conduct or illegal acts. Failure to promptly raise a known or suspected violation is considered an unethical behaviour. Please refer the Company’s Code of Conduct for the standards of ethical behaviour and personal conduct.

E) Reporting a Complaint

Reports of allegations of suspected unethical activities are encouraged to be made in writing/mail so as to assure a clear understanding of the issues. Such reports should be factual rather than speculative and must contain as much specific information as possible to allow for proper assessment of the nature, extent and urgency of preliminary investigative procedures. The Whistle-blower need not prove the concern but must demonstrate sufficient grounds for raising the concern. The disclosure can also be made anonymously, but it will be the decision of the Ethics Committee to further act upon on an anonymous complaint or not depending upon the disclosure so made.

F) Reporting Process

The complaint can be made in any of the following methods:

  • Written Complaint: A written complaint can be sent to the Company Secretary or Chief Executive Officer of the Company.
  • E-mail: compliants@shikshafinance.com which will be managed by the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and the Company Secretary of the Company.
Disqualification

In case of it is found that the complaint has been made with malafide intentions and is a false accusation or is an abuse of process, and then appropriate action against the person making the disclosure will be taken. Having said that, the Company clearly understands that some disclosures may not result in any investigation or action at a later stage even though they are made in good faith. In such circumstances, no action would be initiated against the submitter of information. It is also clarified that this process should not be used as a grievance redressal mechanism.

Procedure of Investigation

All complaints received by the Ethics committee will be categorized in two broad categories:

  • Complaints against Senior Top Management Officers hereinafter referred as “C” Level officers.
  • Complaints against others.

The Ombudsperson Function will carry out preliminary investigation of complaints received against employees other than “C” level officers and based on the findings of preliminary investigation report to Top management which shall decide upon further investigation and the next steps.

The complaints against “C” level officers will be dealt with by CEO’s Office.

Remedies and Discipline

If the company determines that a compliance or ethical violation has occurred, it will take the following actions as deemed fit to correct it:

  • Any person found guilty of violation of the Company’s Code of Conduct will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
  • Appropriate procedures, policies and controls will be established in all departments to ensure early detection of similar violation.

During the investigation period or at any time thereafter, if any employee is found to be (a) retaliating against the complainant, (b) coaching witnesses or (c) tampering with evidence, then it would lead to severe disciplinary action including termination of employment.

Investigating Officer:
  • To receive complaints and provide acknowledgment to the complainant.
  • To maintain tracker for complaints raised along with action taken report.
  • To forward complaints received against “C” level officers to CEO’s Office
  • Carry out an initial investigation based on preliminary evaluation of complaint and the quality of information / evidence provided for complaints involving other than “C” Level officers.
  • To present update on cases investigated and action taken report to Top-management every 15 days.
G) Whistle-blower

The Whistle-blower provides the complaint, which is the initial information related to a reasonable belief that an unethical activity has occurred. The motivation of a Whistle-blower is irrelevant to the consideration of the validity of the allegation.

  • Whistle-blower (including anonymous Whistle-blower) must provide all factual corroborating evidence, as is available/possible, to enable commencement of an investigation, material which demonstrates sufficient grounds for concern. However, the Whistle-blower shall refrain from obtaining evidence for which they do not have a right of access and no protection would be guaranteed to the Whistle-blower for having obtained information illegally.
  • The Whistle-blowers will not be immune to disciplinary action if he is found guilty of or is a party to the allegations.
Whistle-blower Protection

The Company will ensure to protect whistle-blowers against retaliation, as described below:

The Company will keep the whistle-blower’s identity confidential, unless
(a) the person agrees to be identified.
(b) identification is necessary to allow the Company or law enforcement officials to investigate or respond effectively to the report.
(c) identification is required by law; or
(d) the person accused of Compliance violations is entitled to the information as a matter of legal right in disciplinary proceedings.

The Company prohibits retaliation against a whistle-blower with the intent or effect of adversely affecting the terms or conditions of employment (including but not limited to, threats of physical harm, loss of job, punitive work assignments, or impact on salary or wages). Whistle-blowers who believe that they have been retaliated against may file a written complaint with the Whistle-blower Committee (Management team and HR Head). A proven complaint of retaliation shall result in a proper remedy for the person harmed and severe disciplinary action including termination of employment against the retaliating person. This protection from retaliation is not intended to prohibit managers or supervisors from taking action, including disciplinary action, in the usual scope of their duties and based on valid performance-related factors.

Annexure 1: Illustrative List of Malpractices and Events

  • Unethical business practices like bribery taken / given
  • Non-financial significant favours, gifts beyond the defined guidelines e.g; an amount over Rs. 500/
  • Misuse of company funds, assets, property, facilities etc.
  • Negligence causing substantial risk to public health and safety
  • Manipulation of company data / records
  • Financial irregularities, including fraud, or suspected fraud
  • Abuse of authority
  • Criminal offence
  • Theft of confidential / proprietary / customer information
  • Violation of law / regulation organization wide
  • Embezzlement of company funds/assets
  • Breach of employee Code of Conduct or Rules
  • Any other unethical behaviour

This Policy can be amended, modified, or withdrawn at the company’s discretion.

This policy shall be effective from the date of approval.

Any deviation to this policy requires approval from CEO, in his absence the COO.

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