Suggestions galore before govt to make agency worthy

Suggestions galore before govt to make agency worthy

The UPA government’s contempt for a just probe in Coalgate that threatens to expose ‘most honest’ face of the ruling Congress could have been prevented, had suggestions received by a parliamentary panel from legal experts and Members of Parliament to free the CBI from the state's shadow, been accepted.

The Supreme Court’s scathing criticism of the CBI allowing political interference in its probe report on Coalgate acknowledges the consistent and brazen misuse of the premier investigation agency over at least two decades by successive central governments. The apex court had pointed out the same in its famous hawala case judgment way back in the early 1990s.

The suggestions of MPs cutting across party lines came while drafting the Lokpal Bill but was later dumped by the UPA to shamelessly keep its control over the investigation agency. The cabinet even overlooked the views expressed by CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s predecessor A P Singh, who wanted autonomy for the agency to ensure fair probe in sensitive cases. Now, slammed by the apex court, the government has constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) under chairmanship of Finance Minister P Chidambaram with V Narayanasamy, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Manish Tewary as members to figure out ways to make the CBI independent and autonomous. 

As of now, the CBI is dependent on home ministry for drafting officers, comes under personnel ministry and is forced to take legal advice from the law ministry.

Autonomy for CBI

The experts were unequivocal in their submission before the Select Committee on Lokpal last year on granting autonomy to the CBI and suggested various measures to improve the image of the agency. The Union Cabinet in January, selectively accepted the suggestions of the Select Committee, refusing to give up control over CBI. BJP leader Arun Jaitley, in his submission, had stated that CBI’s control should be transferred from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) to the Lokpal in respect of corruption cases referred to Lokpal.

The leader-cum-lawyer had said that the investigation and prosecution wings of the CBI should be independent and separate directors for the two wings should be appointed by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Chairman of Lokpal.

Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha,was also categorical that no post-retirement sops should be offered to the CBI director which would make him indebted to the government. The latest beneficiaries of such sops are former CBI directors Ashwini Kumar, who was made Governor of Nagaland, and A P Singh, who is now Member of the UPSC .

To make the CBI truly independent, the parliamentary panel suggested that it should have private lawyers on its panel. Had this suggestion been accepted, ousted Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Prime Minister’s Office could not have gained unauthorized access to the secret investigation report.

“The panel of advocates who appear for and advise the CBI should be independent of the government. They may be appointed by the Director Prosecution after obtaining prior approval of the Lokpal,” a panel of BJP members comprising Arun jaitley, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Bupinder Yadav had suggested.

NCP spokesperson D P Tripathi, in his submission had asked the government to give more teeth to the CBI and freeing it from administrative control.
“I am of the strong view that providing more financial and administrative autonomy to CBI is a prerequisite for ensuring its functional autonomy and, thereby, providing teeth to effectively fight  corruption,” NCP’s Tripathi said.

BSP’s S C Mishra has suggested, “The powers and structure of CBI should not be diluted in any manner in order to protect the effectiveness of the organisation. Lokpal should not be ideally interfering in the administrative matters of CBI/investigation agency and the powers of assigning the investigation to a particular investigating officer should be vested with the Director, CBI/Head of the investigating agency.”

Former CBI Director A P Singh had said the drafting of Lokpal Bill is also an opportunity to consider means of strengthening the CBI and making it autonomous.
Justice (retd) A P Shah was of the view that administrative control of CBI should be handed over to the Lokpal. “The public perception of the CBI is that while it is effective in investigating corruption cases involving low-ranking bureaucrats and launching prosecution, it is open to manipulation by the ruling party or alliance when cases involve high ranking politicians or other powerful individuals who are co-accused in corruption scandals,” Justice Shah had said.

A senior IPS officer who served the CBI for a long period in handling sensitive cases was of the view that there should be a multi-discplinary body for lateral appointments of the officers coming on deputation. He was of the view that the quality of the agency workforce at the level of inspectors and DySPs who do the actual probe should also be improved because autonomy alone cannot fetch excellent output.

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