GoM meets on CBI autonomy

GoM meets on CBI autonomy

A presentation was given on how to shield agency

GoM meets on CBI autonomy

A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram met for the first time in North Block on Thursday to watch a presentation by the Department of Personnel (DoPT) on how to shield the CBI from government interference that has crippled its autonomous functioning.

The government was forced to constitute a GoM on the directions of the Supreme Court in the coal block allotment scam petition.

The court was shocked to see unauthorised and illegal vetting of a draft CBI report by the Union law minister, two representatives from the prime minister’s office and the Coal Ministry before it was submitted.

The DoPT, which has administrative control over the CBI, gave a presentation to the GoM that had elements from the SC’s famous Vineet Narayan case judgment.

In the judgment, the court fixed two-year tenure for the agency director.

In the presentation, Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that governs the agency and the Lokpal Bill cleared by the Union Cabinet early this year were also mentioned.

“We have had a very preliminary discussion. A presentation was made by the DoPT on Vineet Narain judgment, provisions of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and Lokpal Bill,” confirmed Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday.

Next step

Sibal said that the GoM would now decide the next step. The GoM includes Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Law Minister Kapil Sibal, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy.

Except for Shinde, who is in the US on an official tour, all other ministers attended the meeting. Sibal, however, said that Shinde would be present at the next meeting but the date had not been finalised.

CBI Director Ranjit Kumar Sinha is also expected to give his presentation on insulating the agency from government meddling owing to which they fail to do a professional investigation in sensitive matters specially involving ministers and politicians from the ruling party.

Change course

How brazenly the government can change the course of investigation was witnessed in the coal scam which forced the Supreme Court to say that the CBI is a “caged parrot speaking his master’s voice” and that the “heart” of the investigation was changed.

Earlier, Chidambaram had acknowledged that the CBI would be given “functional autonomy”, but he felt that accountability was equally “important”.

The panel will study the accountability model present in foreign countries to put together their own and present it to the apex court before July 10. 

The government’s move to constitute the GoM was criticised by the BJP, which had described it as eyewash given the Centre’s reluctance to take suggestions on functioning of the CBI from the Parliamentary select committee on Lokpal Bill.

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