People who expose corruption in government or irregularities by public functionaries can now be free of any fear of victimisation.
The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011, which provides a mechanism for protecting the identity of whistleblowers -- a term given to people who expose corruption -- got the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday.
The Act also provides for a system to encourage people to disclose information about corruption or the wilful misuse of power by public servants, including ministers.
As per the law, a person can make a public interest disclosure on corruption before a competent authority -- which is at present the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The government, by notification, can appoint any other body also for receiving such complaints about corruption, the Act says.
The Act, however, lays down punishment of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 30,000 for false or frivolous complaints.
"Any person who makes a mala fide disclosure, knowing that it was incorrect or false or misleading, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years as well as a fine which may extend up to Rs 30,000," according to a gazette notification of the Act issued yesterday by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The Act says that every disclosure shall be made in good faith and the person making the disclosure shall provide a personal declaration stating that he reasonably believes that the information disclosed by him and the allegation contained therein is substantially true.
Disclosures can be made in writing or by email or email message in accordance with the procedure as may be prescribed and contain full particulars and be accompanied by supporting documents, or other material, the Act states.
However, no action shall be taken on a disclosure if it does not indicate the identity of the complainant or public servant or if "the identity of the complainant or public servant is found to be incorrect".
Information related to national security has been kept out of the purview of the Act. The Act is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, the armed forces and the Special Protection Group mandated to provide security to the Prime Minister and former prime ministers, among others.
The Whistleblowers Protection Bill was introduced on August 26, 2010. It was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee on September 16, 2010, which had given its report on June 9, 2011.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on December 11, 2011 and by Rajya Sabha on February 21, 2014.
Earlier, the CVC was the designated agency to receive complaints from whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informer resolution (PIDPI) or whistleblowers' resolution.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had directed all central government departments to designate a nodal officer in each ministry to look into complaints of corruption received from whistleblowers under PIDPI.