New Delhi: Government on Wednesday approved amendment in the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 to keep issues of national security out of its purview.
The decision came on a day when Congress President Sonia Gandhi attacked the government in Lok Sabha for not notifying the bill despite it getting the President's assent in May 2014.
The amendment to the bill is being done with a view to incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the state, etc.
The amendments would address concerns relating to national security.
"This would strengthen the safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state, relations with a foreign state or leads to incitement of an offence.
"Safeguard has also been provided in respect of such disclosures which have been exempted under section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005," the government said in a release.
After the Cabinet nod, government will move an amendment bill in Parliament during the Budget session itself.
In order to give statutory protection to whistleblowers in the country, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection to Persons making the Disclosures Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010.
The bill was passed by Lok Sabha, in December 2011, as the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011.
The Rajya Sabha had passed it on February 21 last year. It had received the assent of the President on May 9 the same year.
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.
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.
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.