Ministers' panel to take 'political call' on greater autonomy for CBI

New Delhi:  A Group of Ministers (GoM) will now reportedly take a 'political' call on whether the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI should be made more autonomous or whether minor changes to enhance the powers of the CBI director would be sufficient. The GoM met in the capital yesterday; Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was the only absentee at the meeting. The CBI, meanwhile, has its own wish-list and is pressing for greater autonomy.
Here are 10 developments in this story:
  1. According to sources, while Union ministers Salman Khurshid and V Narayanasamy recommended minor changes at the meeting, Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who heads the GoM - and Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that the mood is for an overall change in the way the CBI functions to give it greater autonomy.
  2. The government panel is reportedly not in favour of banning post-retirement government jobs for CBI chiefs, an issue that has been a bone of contention between the government and the Opposition.
  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 and wants to be controlled less by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
  4. The CBI is said to have asked for a five-year tenure for its chief and powers to curtail or extend the tenure of officers up to the Deputy Inspector General or DIG level.
  5. 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."
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. After the severe reprimand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a Group of Ministers to decide the plan of action to secure the autonomy 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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