Group of Ministers discuss CBI autonomy, to take political call

New Delhi:  A Group of Ministers (GoM) met in the capital today to discuss granting greater autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was the only absentee in the meeting. The ministers' panel will now take a 'political' call on what steps should be taken to make the investigating agency more autonomous or only make minor changes to enhance the powers of the CBI Director.
Here are the 10 developments in the case:
  1. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who heads the Group of Ministers, met CBI director Ranjit Sinha ahead of the meeting.
  2. According to sources, in the meeting while union ministers Salman Khurshid and V Narayanasamy recommended minor changes, Mr Chidambaram along with Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that the mood is for an overall change in the way the CBI functions to give it greater autonomy.
  3. The CBI has reportedly demanded financial and functional autonomy, which includes a special statutory mechanism for the removal of the CBI director. The CBI has also reportedly asked for a 3-month time period for sanction of investigation.
  4. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had sharply criticised the Union government for interfering in the CBI's investigations in the coal scam. A livid court had observed that the agency is a "caged parrot that has many masters."
  5. The court's reprimand came after the CBI admitted that former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials from the Prime Minister's Office and the Coal Ministry made changes to the agency's draft report on its investigations, which was meant to be submitted in confidentiality to the Supreme Court.
  6. The Supreme Court had asked the Centre whether it was contemplating a law to make the working of the CBI independent and insulate it from extraneous intrusion and interferences.
  7. After the severe reprimand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a Group of Ministers, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, to decide the plan of action to secure the autonomy of the CBI.
  8. Speaking to NDTV last week, Mr Chidambaram said, "We will give the CBI functional autonomy. But all over the world - all bodies are accountable to somebody - they are accountable to executive, they are accountable to the legislature, they are accountable to the courts. I think what we have to ensure is that no one interferes with the investigations of the CBI."
  9. At least five parliamentary panels have submitted reports on how to secure the CBI's autonomy since 2008.
  10. The parliamentary panels have recommended a statutory position for the CBI, which would give it status equivalent to other autonomous bodies like the Election Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General.

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