‘Director dependent on Ministry for routine approvals can’t take objective decisions in crunch situations’

The Central Bureau of Investigation wants complete functional and financial autonomy for its proper functioning.

In its reply to the Centre’s proposal on conferring autonomy, the CBI on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was agreeable to the Director and officers being appointed by a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or a judge nominated by him. But the views of the outgoing CBI Director should be considered, the agency said.

The Centre had, in its affidavit, explained the steps it proposed to take to insulate the CBI from government interference in its investigations as well by amending the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. The Centre’s affidavit came on the petitions filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma and others in the coal allotment scam case. On the Centre’s move to fix a two-year tenure for the CBI Director, the agency said it should be three years. It agreed with the proposal that investigation of offences alleged to have been committed under all statutes except the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) “shall vest with the Central government.” Investigation of PCA cases would be done under the supervision of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

The CBI’s affidavit said functional autonomy was “largely predicated on the Director’s administrative and financial powers. In the present arrangement, the administrative, disciplinary and financial powers of the Director are limited and this impinges on his ability to ensure expeditious and complete investigation and high ethical standards among his subordinates. As such, it is necessary that the CBI Director should be vested with ex-officio powers of the Secretary of Government of India reporting directly to the Minister [concerned] without having to go through the Department of Personnel and Training.”

Financial and administrative powers were essential for the efficient functioning of the CBI and for insulating it from Ministry in its day-to-day functioning, the affidavit said. “A Director who is dependent on Ministry for routine administrative and financial approvals is not best placed to take independent and objective decisions in crunch situations. The CBI Director who is free to take routine administrative and financial decisions within the prescribed rules is undeniably necessary for the CBI to remain insulated to discharge its core function without fear or favour.”

On grant of sanction for prosecution, the affidavit said a committee headed by the CVC and with the Cabinet Secretary and the CBI Director as members “should decide on matters pertaining to sanction. Views of the department concerned can be formally sought to assist in decision-making. CBI agrees with the three-month time limit for taking decision.”