All political parties and bureaucrats want to control us: CBI


October 30, 2013

NEW DELHI: Neither the government nor officials are willing to grant even an inch of autonomy to the CBI and all political parties – once in power – want a stranglehold on its functioning, the agency told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

October 30, 2013

NEW DELHI: Neither the government nor officials are willing to grant even an inch of autonomy to the CBI and all political parties – once in power – want a stranglehold on its functioning, the agency told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The CBI on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that neither the government nor officials were willing to grant even an inch of autonomy to the agency.

"The government and the bureaucracy will not give an inch towards the autonomy of the CBI. All political formulations in the country do not want autonomy of the CBI," senior advocate Amarendra Saran, appearing for the agency, told the court.

Saran's comments came in response to the Centre stoutly opposing the agency's demand to confer on the CBI director the status of secretary to the government which would enable the incumbent to report directly to the minister in charge of the department of personnel and training.

The CBI's plea is significant as usually the prime minister is in charge of the department of personnel and training though a minister of state oversees day-to-day functioning. In its previous submission, the Centre had said an "all-powerful" CBI chief could lead to misuse of powers.

Responding to the CBI's comments during a hearing on PILs seeking quashing of allocation of coal blocks, a bench of Justices R M Lodha, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph asked, "So, all political parties are ad idem (in agreement) on this issue?"

Saran said, "This is true. The effort is to keep the CBI under control and keep it under stranglehold. We are not saying autonomy means we will not be accountable to anyone. We will continue to be accountable to the government and the courts."

The CBI's arguments are likely to add to the Centre's discomfort in the wake of the agency recently registering a case of alleged corruption in the allocation of a coal block – a decision approved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he held the coal portfolio in UPA-1.

Stressing on the importance of conferring a higher status on the CBI director, Saran said, "If secretary to the government status was conferred on the CBI director, his proposals would receive the minister's direct attention. But now, radical proposals from the director are returned with 20 objections by the desk officer."

While solicitor general Mohan Parasaran rejected the proposal and said "the government strongly opposes the move", the bench wanted to know the reasons behind Centre's strong reservations with regard to CBI's demand for secretary status to its director.

The court asked the SG to file within two weeks the government's written response to the CBI's two-fold proposal – secretary status to the director and conferring him power to appoint special counsel.

The court had in March vowed to make CBI immune from external influence after it learnt that a coal scam investigation status report, meant for its eyes only, was vetted by then law minister prior to its submission to the court. It had even called the CBI a "caged parrot".

Despite the strong words used by the court, the Centre had openly objected to conferring more powers on the CBI director. In its August 2 affidavit filed before the court, the Centre said giving secretary status would spark similar demands from other police organizations like CRPF and BSF.

About conferring the CBI director with more powers like controlling cadre, selecting its own officers and exercising supervision over prosecution, the Centre had said, "An all powerful director CBI without adequate checks and balances would not be consonant with settled constitutional principles and would carry the risk of potential misuse and may not be conducive to fearless and independent functioning of the organization at all levels."

The Centre had also rejected the proposal to increase the CBI director's tenure from two years to three years saying the existing fixed tenure "would not be an impediment to the long-term prospective of the organization". "Tenures of all senior strategic positions in government of India (where there is fixed tenure) are on similar lines," it had said.

The ministry said the CBI director has already been given greater financial powers, which now was on par with the director general of CRPF. However, he could not be given special status of reporting directly to the minister concerned without going through the ministry.

It had said, "Any overriding powers of the director CBI over prosecution would compromise the prosecution's impartiality… Putting the directorate of prosecution completely under the director CBI would compromise the impartiality of the prosecution agency."

The CBI had opposed the government's decision to set up an independent accountability commission, comprising of judicial members, to scrutinize its work and said it could seriously jeopardize its independence and lead to outside interference in investigations.

Rejecting the CBI's proposal for an internal vigilance mechanism instead of the accountability commission, the Centre had said the chief vigilance officer (CVO), who is an employee of the agency, could seldom question the CBI director for potential acts of commission or omission.

Courtesy: TNN