In its parting gift, the UPA government has notified the law to give legal protection to whistleblowers but given the Narendra Modi government a free hand to decide when it wants to bring the law into force.
Modi govt to decide when whistleblowers get safety (Illustration: Abhimanyu Sinha)
Parliament had hurriedly cleared the bill way back in February after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi gave it a hard push to showcase the UPA’s commitment towards fighting corruption and raising accountability.
But the bill could not receive presidential assent.
It turned out that the law ministry woke up soon after the bill’s passage to errors in the legislation such as the long title and enacting formula, which records its name as: Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011.
The Lok Sabha had passed the legislative proposal in December 2011.
The Rajya Sabha, however, cleared the bill in February 2014.
A belated suggestion to amend the Bill by an ordinance was made but it ran into trouble as the model code of conduct for the general elections kicked in.
Legal experts in the government, however, pointed that there was no scope in the Constitution to amend a proposed law.
This meant that a law could be amended only after it receives presidential asset and is notified.
A section within the government in the meantime called for excluding national security related officials from the purview of the proposed bill.
In its present form, only the Special Protection Group that guards the PM, their immediate family and former PMs are excluded.
The law – once it comes into force – would seek to encourage people to expose corruption or irregularities and protect them from victimisation.
Ironically, the law – which owes its origins to demands by anti-graft activists in wake of the murder of NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey in Bihar in 2003 – will be brought into force more than a decade later by another BJP-led coalition government.
Under the law, people who make complaints will have to disclose their identity but there are penalties that can be invoked if the identity of those who complain is leaked.