Unhappy with autonomy offer,CBI wants more

SC: Agency wants Secy rank for its director,more financial and administrative powers

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: July 17, 2013 2:25 am

Not satisfied with the government’s proposals to shield it from external influences and intrusion,the CBI Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it wanted its director to be on par with a secretary in the Central government and demanded more administrative and financial powers for the officer to insulate the agency in its day-to-day functioning.

The CBI,in its response to the amendments approved by the Cabinet to make the agency autonomous, cited several deficiencies in the Centre’s stand on non-interference in investigations,giving a minimum tenure to its director,setting up an accountability commission to inquire into cases against its officers,engagement of lawyers,and involvement of the Attorney General at the investigation stage,among others.

Demanding complete independence in matters of investigations,it said that although it was agreeable to the government’s authority while probing cases that are not about corruption,the CBI felt that sufficient financial and administrative powers had to be given to the director,along with a minimum tenure of three years to ensure “functional autonomy”.

“As such,it is necessary that the director,CBI,should be vested with ex-officio powers of the Secretary to the Government of India,reporting directly to the minister,without having to go through the DoPT,” the agency said,adding that financial powers equivalent to that of the DG,CRPF,were not enough and that it wanted a separate budgetary allocation.

The CBI claimed that this arrangement will ensure that its director is independent of its parent ministry as far as investigation is concerned and is accountable only with respect to administrative and financial matters. It also said that a committee,to be headed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and including the Cabinet Secretary and CBI director,should decide the question of granting sanctions to investigate. Incidentally,a bench led by Justice R M Lodha had during the last hearing pulled up the agency,saying it would not allow the CBI to share with the political executive details of its investigation into the allotment of coal blocks under the guise of getting sanctions.

In the affidavit which will be examined by the court on Wednesday,the CBI has also opposed a suggestion to seek the AG’s opinion in all cases where the CBI director disagrees with the director of prosecution (DoP). It said this procedure should be followed only in appeal and revision cases and not at the stage of investigation.

It also countered establishment of an ‘accountability commission,’ comprising of former SC and HC judges,to look into complaints against CBI officers. Citing its own in-house mechanism to deal with such complaints,the agency said “creation of an outside accountability commission will have the tendency of compromising discipline within the organisation as disciplinary powers will vest outside,albeit indirectly”. The CBI added that a system of appeal against an order of its director will “undermine” his position.

It also demanded deletion of a proposal to seek the approval of the law ministry for engagement of lawyers to fight its cases,saying the ministry should only be informed after the director,in consultation with the DoP,finalises a panel of lawyers.

While the CBI concurred with the appointment of its director on the recommendation of a three-member panel – headed by the Prime Minister and including the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or a nominated judge – it suggested that views of the outgoing director should also be taken into account by the committee.

It also desired that the new director must have experience of working in the CBI at a supervisory level as an “essential criteria” for selection. The committee’s consent should also be taken before removing the director,the affidavit said.

The agency has also asked for enhancing the power of its director to be able to appoint SP-level officers. At present,the director can appoint officers up to the rank of inspector.

In May,CBI director Ranjit Sinha had told the court that then law minister Ashwani Kumar and officials from the PMO and coal ministry had amended a status report in the coal blocks allotment case before its submission.

The court had then said it was perturbed by the CBI changing the “heart” of the report at the instance of its “masters” and commented it had become a “caged parrot”,speaking in its masters’ voice. It subsequently ordered the Centre to suggest ways the CBI could be made autonomous.

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