The government on Monday finalised its proposed law to protect whistleblowers that stipulates a three-year jail term for government officials if they reveal the identity of a whistleblower.
The Union Cabinet cleared the draft Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill 2010 at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.
The bill also empowers the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to impose a penalty on a public authority - Rs 250 for every day of delay beyond the stipulated deadline - that sits on complaints sent to them for their comments.
An upper limit of Rs 50,000 has been fixed in this regard, twice the maximum fine that can be imposed on officials for a delayed response under the Right to Information Act.
Similarly a penalty can also be imposed on officials if they try to mislead the CVC, the anti-corruption watchdog.
The commission will have powers of a civil court under this law; appeals against its decisions will lie with the high court.
But the law also tries to ensure that people do not misuse the protection accorded under this provision to harass honest government officials.
A senior government official said it stipulated a two-year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 30,000 for people who were found to be levelling false and frivolous complaints against officials.
The demand for the law first came nearly six years ago after a public outcry over the murder of a National Highways Authority of India engineer Satyendra Dubey in November 2003, soon after he complained about corruption in imple mentation of a Golden Quadrilateral highway construction project.
With the CVC as the nodal authority to handle complaints against the state, the Centre or public sector employees, the bill is expected to encourage disclosure of information in public interest and people who expose corruption in government.