Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven, two naval officers, witnessed the torture of British prisoners of war at the hands of their commanding officer, Esek Hopkins. Outraged by his action, they reported him, which resulted in their dismissal from the US Navy. That was 1777. Shaw and Marven sought Congressional support and testified before the Congress. A year later, on July 30, 1778, the US Congress passed a whistleblower resolution, now widely considered as the world’s first whistleblower protection law. Many countries have since enacted laws for the protection of whistleblowers.
Two hundred years later, India almost did the same. In 2011, the Whistleblowers Protection Act was drafted. The Act was later renamed The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 and was passed by both Houses of Parliament, but never notified. Meanwhile, whistleblowers were encouraged to call out corporations for corporate fraud, with requisite provisions under the Companies Act, 2013 and the SEBI legislations. But protections for whistleblowers against the government remained elusive.
Whistleblowers who enjoy the legal protection of a whistleblower law fall within the first of three categories of “informants”. The second category of whistleblowers are those that fall outside the realm of this protection and are referred to, opprobriously, as “leakers”. There are numerous examples in history — from Frank Serpico who leaked information about corruption in the NYPD, to Chelsea Manning’s leaks of classified information including the Baghdad strikes in 2009, to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, who informed the world about the illegal violation of their privacy.