New Delhi: CBI today issued fresh guidelines for its officers asking them to take permission of the Additional Director or above before beginning investigation against any joint secretary and above rank officers in the government.
The direction comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgement which struck down the provision of seeking mandatory prior approval by CBI of the government to probe against officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above.
CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, who had termed it as a landmark judgement, however, had a word of caution to its officers and said "those found guilty of abusing their authority will be dealt with severely."
Sinha had said the order had added more responsibilities on CBI as a proper mechanism had to be put in place to ensure that no innocent is subjected to this provision.
"We have strengthened our already existing mechanism and due diligence will be done before questioning any senior officer," he had said.
According to the circular issued by CBI, any inquiry against a joint secretary or above officer in the government will have to be approved by a competent authority which would be either an Additional Director, a Special Director or the Director of CBI.
It said that in case of a complaint in any CBI office against a Union Minister, the same shall be forwarded to the Home Ministry promptly for further action and the relevant file should remain in the personal custody of head of the branch.
No complaint against any such officer will be handed over to a CBI officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police, the guidelines said.
The Superintendent of Police should ensure that the departmental records are examined discreetly so that secrecy of the verification is maintained, it said and advised to consult the records informally by contacting the concerned Vigilance Officers or the Head of the Department.
During the course of verification of the complaint, a written requisition for record should normally be avoided but wherever absolutely necessary, such requisition must go under the signature of the Head of the Branch only and never of the Verification Officer, failing which concerned unit heads would be held squarely responsible, the circular said.
"The period of three months, which is provided for completion of the verification of complaints, must be strictly adhered to and all complaints that are time-barred should be individually examined by the head of the zones and necessary direction be given in this regard," it said.
While reiterating that adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that motivated complaints or cases are not registered, the circular warned that a trend was seen that complaints were received against an officer who is on the verge of promotion.
"It should be carefully scrutinised and finding out this fact should become part of the verification" and unless the information is specific, it need not be entertained, it said.
A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision which makes it mandatory for prior approval of competent authority for CBI to probe Joint Secretary and above-ranked officials in corruption cases and said the protection has the propensity of shielding the corrupt.
The 6-A clause of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs CBI, says no inquiry or probe can be conducted into any offence committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 except with the previous approval of the central government.
This is applicable to central government employees of the level of Joint Secretary and above and officers appointed by the Centre in corporations established by or under any central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by that government.