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Centre files affidavit in SC on CBI autonomy,PM-led panel to select director

CBI director will hold post for not more than two years and he cannot be transferred without the consent of the committee.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: July 3, 2013 2:01:53 pm

Listing measures to insulate the CBI from “external influences and intrusion”,the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the CBI director will be appointed 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 — for a period of “not less than two years”.

The government,in its affidavit,said the CBI director shall not be transferred without the consent of the selection committee. It also proposed that only the President would have the authority to remove or suspend the director,on a reference by the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) of his “misbehaviour or incapacity”.

The affidavit,which will be considered by the SC on July 10,said while the CVC will have the power of superintendence and administration over the CBI for the cases to be probed under the Prevention of Corruption Act,the Centre will be vested with the power in other matters.

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While the Cabinet-approved amendments have not changed the minimum tenure guarantee for the CBI director — the 2003 CVC Act also assured a minimum stint of two years — the appointment procedure has seen a major concession. Earlier,the director was appointed on the recommendation of a committee comprising the CVC,vigilance commissioners,secretary in-charge of the MHA,and secretary,coordination and public grievances. This committee was also required to take into consideration the views of the outgoing director and then recommend a panel of eligible IPS officers for appointment.

As per the suggested amendments to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act,the Centre now wants to do away with the requirement to seek the outgoing director’s views,and also wants the selection committee to recommend the name of only one officer.

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The affidavit,however,indicates that the concession on the director’s appointment may be tethered by the Centre’s proposal to set up an “Accountability Commission”,which will comprise three retired Supreme Court or High Court judges and will have all the powers of a civil court. The commission will be mandated to inquire into allegations of misbehaviour,impropriety etc against CBI officers,and may also include its director.

The recommendation apparently goes beyond the court’s poser on May 8,when a bench led by Justice R M Lodha had asked “whether the central government intended to put in place appropriate law for the independence of the CBI and its functional autonomy and insulate it from extraneous influences of any kind…” While the order mentioned the need to protect CBI from “extraneous influences of the controlling executive”,it did not seek views on any additional authority,apart from the CVC,to handle complaints against CBI officers.

The Centre’s affidavit also does not clearly spell out the financial powers of the director,merely stating that it shall be equivalent to the powers exercisable by the CRPF director general at the relevant time.

The CBI has been under fire since its director Ranjit Sinha told the SC in May that then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and Coal Ministry had amended a probe status report into the coal block allocation case before its submission. The SC had said it was perturbed by the CBI changing the “heart” of the report at the instance of its “masters” and remarked that it had become a “caged parrot”,speaking in its master’s voice.

According to the affidavit,the CBI’s Director of Prosecution (DoP),who is responsible for prosecution of cases led by the CBI in courts across the country,will be appointed by the Centre on the recommendation of a selection committee headed by the CVC. The other members of the committee will be the DoPT secretary,home secretary and secretary of the department of legal affairs in the law ministry. The CBI director will be the member-convener of the committee.

The DoP will prepare a panel of CBI counsels,in consultation with the CBI director and with the approval of the law ministry. The DoP’s annual confidential report will now be written by the CBI director.

The affidavit added that in case of a difference of opinion between the CBI director and DoP regarding prosecution in certain cases,the matter will be referred to the Attorney General. The director will then take the final decision keeping in view the AG’s opinion.

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