Both Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) Pradeep Kumar and Central Bureau of Investigation Director A.P. Singh on Saturday told the parliamentary committee examining the draft Lokpal Bill that any move to disturb the anti-corruption machinery in their organisations would adversely affect them.
Mr. Kumar and Mr. Singh favoured making the CVC and the CBI Director ex-officio members of the proposed Lokpal, arguing that it would bring about better coordination and synergy. They are learnt to have told the panel that they were against any move to tamper with the CVC and the CBI as suggested by the Anna Hazare team. They felt such a move would weaken their anti-graft fighting machinery.
Both Mr. Kumar and Mr. Singh appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Personnel and Public Grievances, led by Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The session lasted for about two hours.
They contended that the functioning and organisational structure of the CVC and the CBI should remain untouched, informed sources said.
Mr. Kumar is understood to have told the committee that the CVC should continue to have jurisdiction over higher bureaucracy in order to have effective superintendence over vigilance administration.
Team Anna has demanded that the CVC be brought under the purview of the proposed Lokpal. Civil society activists are also demanding that the anti-corruption wing of the CBI be brought under Lokpal.
The sources said Mr. Singh described suggestions for putting the CBI's anti-corruption wing under Lokpal as “retrograde” as it would “cripple” the investigating agency.
He is learnt to have told the panel that the “severed” anti-corruption unit with Lokpal would be ineffective without the back-end support units of the CBI.
The parliamentary panel was told that both the civil society's Jan Lokpal Bill and the government's Lokpal Bill appeared “unworkable” and would weaken the anti-corruption regime.
The CVC made a plea for a strong and effective Lokpal that would focus on the “grand political corruption” indulged into by politicians and Ministers and those civil servants who colluded with their political masters, the sources said.
The CBI Director favoured Lokpal exercising “general superintendence” on anti-corruption matters as also the powers to meet financial, administrative and legal requirements of the agency.
Both the CVC and CBI chief told the committee that the CBI should be conferred with more administrative and functional autonomy. Mr. Singh was learnt to have said there was no need for a separate investigation wing for Lokpal as it would lead to overlapping of work and conflict of jurisdiction.
As for the proposals of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the CBI's contention is that it is a “composite organisation,” and to treat its anti-corruption wing as “severable” will be counter-productive. It feels that conferring police powers on the Jan Lokpal to enable it to supervise the anti-corruption wing may result in a breach in the doctrine of separation of powers, besides making Lokpal vulnerable to being summoned to a court of law.
A critical scrutiny of the Jan Lokpal Bill, according to the CBI, reveals that the procedures it prescribes are envisaged as being highly transparent and, therefore, may not be conducive to cases under the Official Secrets Act or those related to defence procurement.
The CBI is also learnt to have pointed out that most of its branches in the States investigate all types of crimes, and transfer of its anti-corruption wing to the Jan Lokpal will leave it without infrastructure in most of the States.
In the CBI's view, most of the crimes, including economic offences and organised crimes, have an anti-corruption dimension. The CBI minus an anti-corruption wing will have a conflict of jurisdiction while dealing with such cases. Even violent crimes, at times, overlap with corruption cases, such as murder of a right to information activist and smuggling of weapons in the northeast.
As per the provisions in the government's Lokpal Bill, there will be two distinct anti-corruption agencies having concurrent jurisdiction — the investigation wings of Lokpal and the CBI.
According to highly placed sources, this is likely to result in a conflict of jurisdiction. There will be confusion over which agency will investigate a particular case, and it will erode the credibility of both the organisations, the CBI is learnt to have informed the committee.
The committee has already heard Team Anna and requested all stakeholders to give it a fair chance. “It may, in fact, surprise all critics,” Mr. Singhvi had said. The committee is entitled to consider not only the Bill introduced by the government but also the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions such as those prepared by social activist Aruna Roy.