No remedy

The constitution of a Group of Ministers(GoM) to prepare a draft law which will provide independence to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will not convince everybody of the government’s sincerity and commitment to the proposal.

The Supreme Court had sharply criticized the government for interference in the functioning of the CBI and directed it to take immediate steps to free the agency of the government’s control. It has sought an affidavit on what it intends to do  for that before the next hearing in the coalgate case on July 10. In the background of the government’s continued inaction in the matter and known proclivity to misuse the CBI, it may be unrealistic to think that it would prepare an effective and clear roadmap for action. The GoM plan is more likely to be only an attempt to show the Supreme Court that it is acting according to the court’s directive.

The GoM is headed by finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been union home minister in the past, and other senior ministers who are known for their legal expertise. But they are also known for their strong conservative views on the status on the CBI and cannot be expected to be too well disposed to taking a genuinely liberal and positive view on granting  more freedom to the CBI. The CBI director and the attorney general will be observers but this will not make much difference.

GoMs have in the past also not delivered much in time on the issues they were tasked to take decisions. An empowered committee of eminent legal experts and others with adequate domain knowledge, all with a commitment to the idea of autonomy for the CBI, might have served the purpose better. It is also important to involve the opposition parties in the process and to take their views into consideration.

Preparing a blueprint for CBI reforms and submitting it to the courts is the easier part. Acting on it will be more difficult. In spite of public pressure and prodding from the court an effective Lokpal bill has not been formulated and passed in many years. So it may be too optimistic to believe that an effective CBI legislation  will be prepared and passed in the monsoon session of parliament which is only months away. When it comes to that even the opposition may not be too keen on that, because they too need the CBI when they come to power.

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