Can`t give CBI autonomy, Centre tells Supreme Court

In an important development, the Central government on Wednesday opposed providing autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: In an important development, the Central government on Wednesday opposed providing autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre maintained that the director of the CBI cannot be given the ex-officio power of secretary as it will amount to "vesting unbridled power in one authority".

The Centre rejected CBI`s demand to allow its director to report directly to the Minister-in- charge, saying such a move will be unprecedented and may cause heartburn in similar organisations.

In its 23-page affidavit, the Centre said agency demand for ex-officio power cannot be granted as it would alter the organisational relationship between the government department and its subordinate offices.

"While considering the demands of a particular subordinate office like the CBI, it has to keep in mind the issue of parity with similarly-placed organisations and it is not desirable to create new precedent which would create heartburn in similarly-placed organisations.

"The mere fact of same pay scales does not alter the organisational relationship between the Government departments and its subordinate offices. Other Central Armed Forces, Central Police Organisations, officers of the Armed Services many of whom may be enjoying similar pay scales or even higher to that of the Secretary to the government but that does not alter the official procedure," the affidavit said.

The government believes such a demand from one organisation may lead to similar demands being raised by other subordinate organisations.

"Government is accountable and answerable to Parliament and therefore the right of the executive to run the government, subject to checks and balances, cannot be taken away," it said, adding, "Granting the ex-officio powers of the Secretary would run contrary to the rules and affect the statutory scheme of governance."

"The vesting of ex-officio Secretary powers upon the CBI director is strongly opposed as it will seriously jeopardise the scheme of checks and balances envisaged in the governance as well as other deleterious effects it is likely to have on the criminal justice system," it said.

"Decision in this regard has been taken by the Executive in good faith, and should be treated bonafide," MoS PMO Narayansamy said following the development.

The development comes days after Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh maintained that the Centre will protect CBI`s future and its legality.

The opposition has repeatedly attacked the Centre for misusing the CBI and influencing its work for political gains.

It was also not too long ago that the apex court had said that the CBI is a caged bird and stressed on the need for giving it more powers.

"The CBI has become a caged parrot speaking in its master`s voice. It`s a sordid saga that there are many masters and giving unbridled power to the CBI is not possible. The CBI has become the police force and is in the administrative control of the Central government. CBI investigations have to be independent," the SC had said in its observations in the coal scam case.

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