This Article is From Jun 27, 2013

Cabinet clears ministers' panel affidavit on CBI powers

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared suggestions by the Group of Ministers (GoM) to bring autonomy in the working of CBI which include constitution of a panel of retired judges to oversee the investigations undertaken by the agency besides increased financial powers of its Director.

Sources said the GoM, chaired by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, has recommended the constitution of a panel of retired judges which would monitor the investigations undertaken by the agency to ensure that probes remain free from any external influence.

It has also recommended increase in financial powers of the CBI Director and a new mechanism for the appointment of the Director (Prosecution) which is at present a Law Ministry appointee.

The recommendations will now be part of the affidavit to be filed before the Supreme Court early next week which would hear the matter on July 10.

The government is also likely to tell the apex court about the pending Lokpal Bill which is under consideration of the Rajya Sabha. The Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha has recommended that the CBI Director should be selected through a collegium of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.

The Group of Ministers, also comprising Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy, had concluded its deliberations on Monday.

The government's move to constitute the GoM came after scathing observations of the Supreme Court on the functioning of CBI while hearing the coal block allocation scam case.

The Supreme Court had indicted CBI for being a "caged parrot" of its political masters while hearing a case related to irregularities in coal blocks allocation and directed it to make an effort to come out with a law to insulate CBI from external influence and intrusion.

"...CBI has become a caged parrot. We can't have CBI as a caged parrot speaking in the master's voice. It is a sordid saga where there are many masters and one parrot," the Supreme Court had said during a hearing on May 6.

The court's remarks had come following an affidavit from CBI Director R Sinha who admitted to have shared a draft coal block allocation probe report with former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and two joint secretaries -- Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla -- in the Prime Minister's Office and Coal Ministry respectively.

The GoM had met three times and is not inclined to bring drastic changes in the functioning of CBI, government sources said.

CBI, which is probing irregularities in allocation of coal mine blocks on the direction of CVC, has so far registered 13 FIRs in the matter. The agency has questioned two former officials as witnesses who were posted in the Prime Minister Office (PMO) during the period 2006-09 with regards to coal blocks allocated during the period.