CBI to press for autonomy before SC

CBI is likely to press before the Supreme Court that its demand for autonomy is legitimate and will pave the way for curbing interference in its functioning.

New Delhi: CBI is likely to press before the Supreme Court that its demand for autonomy is legitimate and will pave the way for curbing interference in its functioning; two days after the government junked the agency`s proposal for more power for its Director.

Highly-placed CBI sources said that the agency`s proposal that its Director should report directly to the Minister of Personnel and Training is aimed at cutting red-tape as many files of the agency remain stuck at various levels in different ministries.

The sources said CBI understands the importance of accountability and its demands for more power are for carrying out its investigations in a timely manner.

Setting the stage for a standoff in the apex court on the autonomy issue, the Centre had on August 2 rejected CBI`s stand for more power for its Director with a minimum three-year term, saying an all-powerful chief without checks and balances entails the risk of "potential misuse".

The matter will come up before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The agency has demanded financial powers equivalent to that of secretary in the Union Government but the Centre has suggested such powers be equivalent to what is available with a Director General of a central police force.

The sources said the agency wanted a panel of counsel to be appointed by the CBI Director and that the practice of the Law Ministry providing lawyers should be stopped since the government can replace them any time.

The proposal of the agency wanting autonomy in appointing a panel of special counsel without government`s approval was turned down by the Centre in its affidavit filed before the apex court last week, saying, "Any overriding powers of the Director over prosecution would compromise the impartiality".

The sources said the agency has been demanding financial autonomy to facilitate smooth investigations as many a time they get stuck in the absence of financial clearances from officials in the ministry.

The sources said quicker decisions can be taken if the CBI chief is able to directly put before the Minister the issues that need to be addressed.

CBI, in its affidavit before the Supreme Court, had said it is necessary that the Director should be vested with ex-officio powers of Secretary of Government of India reporting directly to the Minister without having to go hrough the DoPT.

A Director, who is dependent on the Ministry for routine administrative and financial approvals, is not best-placed to take independent and objective decisions in "crunch" situations, it has said.

The sources said similarly, the agency would also press for financial autonomy as administrative and financial powers are essential for the efficiency of CBI and for insulating it from the Ministry in its day-to-day functioning.

They said CBI will inform the court that the demands made by the agency in its affidavit are justified and legitimate, and these were aimed at freeing it for the sake of autonomy and insulating it from extraneous influences.

The issue of CBI`s autonomy had cropped up in the wake of of the agency sharing its probe report on Coalgate with the political executive.

The apex court, which is monitoring the investigation, will scrutinise the stand taken by both CBI and the central government on August 6 while hearing the PIL filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma on the issue.


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