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An independent prosecutor: Govt proposes,CBI opposes

Will taking away the powers of prosecution from the CBI and letting it only investigate a case help insulate it from political influence?

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi |
May 7, 2009 7:37:33 am

Will taking away the powers of prosecution from the CBI and letting it only investigate a case help insulate it from political influence?

In 1998,in the Jain hawala case,the Supreme Court thought so and Chief Justice J S Verma directed that “the (immediate) constitution of an able and impartial agency comprising persons of unimpeachable integrity to perform functions akin to those of the Director of Prosecutions in the UK.”

Today,this proposal is the subject of a bitter war between the CBI which opposes it and the Government which wants it through.

Ironically,it’s the Law Ministry that’s called for an “independent” Directorate of Prosecution on the lines of UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) headed by the Prosecutor General.

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This is the same Law Ministry that has interfered in every high-profile political case to the political advantage of the Government of the day.

This proposal has been backed by no less than the Prime Minister,the National Law Commission and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law,Justice and Personnel.

But CBI director Ashwani Kumar has opposed it. Claiming that the Supreme Court judgment doesn’t direct the establishment of an independent Directorate,on March 24 this year,he wrote to the Department of Personnel: “The separation of the investigative division from the prosecuting division would lead to a drop in conviction rate as happened in different states of the country and this would grossly undermine the performance of the CBI and adversely affect the image and reputation of the organisation.”

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To resolve this stand-off,Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar has convened a high-level meeting on May 14 which will be attended by Secretaries concerned and top CBI officials.

The genesis of the demand for an independent prosecution wing was in the judgment delivered by the apex court in 1998 in the Vineet Narain case.

The bench directed that supervising all prosecutions launched by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate should be handed over to the independent prosecution agency.

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The court also directed that every prosecution which resulted in discharge or acquittal should be reviewed and responsibility fixed.

The CBI isn’t the only one opposing this. The Enforcement Directorate,which would also be divested of its prosecution duties under the Prevention of Money laundering Act (PMLA) once the proposed independent Directorate of Prosecution is established,is also learnt to have opposed it.

To be headed by a Prosecutor General,the proposed Directorate is to be housed outside CBI and ED,with the Department of Personnel and Training intended to have “administrative control.”

That’s where the rub lies.

For,the DoPT also has “administrative control” of the CBI and as The Indian Express investigation has shown,it’s this “control” that the government uses to subvert a case.

Not surprisingly,Justice Verma is not impressed with the government’s move.

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“How can you expect the AG-headed panel to select the best possible candidate? You have seen how independent the Attorney General is,” Justice Verma told The Indian Express. There should be complete transparency in appointment of Prosecutor General. the public should be given complete details of the selection process. Only persons of impeccable reputation should be considered. Moreover,no government ministry should exercise any kind of control over the office of Prosecutor General.”

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First published on: 07-05-2009 at 07:37:33 am

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