The NDA government proposes to amend the Whistleblowers' Protection Act to keep issues of national security out of its purview. According to the proposal of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), a system would also be put in place to identify information that can be shared under the Act.
While the Act sets out the procedure to inquire into the disclosures and provides adequate safeguards against victimisation of the whistleblower, it also seeks to provide punishment for false or frivolous complaints. The wrongdoing might take the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement.
The Act will also ensure punishment for false or frivolous complaints. During the last days of UPA rule, BJP had proposed certain amendments in the bill when it came up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha. One was to bar whistleblowers from seeking information on national security.
The UPA government had agreed to the amendment saying it was necessary. But UPA floor managers had requested BJP not to press for it during the bill's debate in the upper House as an amended bill will have to be reverted to Lok Sabha for its nod, which was not feasible as Parliament's session was concluding soon. The then government is learnt to have promised an ordinance to keep the issue of national security out of the proposed Act's purview.
But President's nod to the Bill came only on May 9, days before the results of the Lok Sabha polls were announced. As the President's nod was awaited, the Ministry of Personnel wanted to bring an ordinance in February on the bill. But the Law Ministry had made it clear that an ordinance was not possible till the time the Bill gets President's nod and is notified in gazette as an Act. Law Ministry had explained that an ordinance can amend an Act and not a bill.
By amending the Act, the government seeks to safeguard against disclosure of information related to sovereignty and integrity of the country. By amending the Act, government also seeks to rectify a 'patent error'. The Bill was passed by Parliament this year and got the President's assent also in May. But a mistake led the Act to be known as 'Whistleblowers' Protection Act, 2011' instead of 2014. Venkatesh Nayak of Access to
Information Programme Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said while the President signed the Bill into law on May 9, the central government has not yet enforced this law. "Unless Parliament sets a time limit for enforcement of a law that its enacts, (as was the case with the Right to
Information Act, 2005), enforcement of that law is left to the discretion of the Central Government," he said. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2011 and was taken up by the Upper House in 2012 for consideration. However, it could not be passed as the debate remained inconclusive following the death of then Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha in the last days of the Budget session of the UPA government.