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CBI autonomy proposal not in conflict with legal provisions: PC

A proposal to set up a panel of retired judges to oversee the investigations of CBI to insulate it from political interference is in conformity with existing legal provisions, Finance Minister P Chidambaram indicated today.

‘What is being proposed does not conflict with any existing legal provision. We could explain it. But we will explain after the affidavit is filed on 3 July...at this stage I cannot tell you what the affidavit contains,’ he told reporters here while briefing about the decisions of the Union Cabinet yesterday.

He was asked whether the proposed panel was against the existing laws as the CBI has to report only to the court concerned and no one else. The Cabinet yesterday approved the recommendations of a GoM set up to provide autonomy to CBI. Based on the recommendations, government will file an affidavit before the SC by 3 July. The issue will come up for hearing on 10 July.

The move to constitute the GoM came after scathing observations of the apex court on the functioning of CBI while hearing the coal blocks allocation scam case.

Sources later explained that the panel of retired judges - which could be three in number - will be an ‘external oversight body’ to look into the internal functions of the investigation agency.

The CBI will continue to report to courts about its investigations. The proposed panel of judges will not look into cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and these will only be monitored by the CVC as is the case now.

While the term of the CBI Director will be of ‘not less than two years’, the government is also likely to tell the apex court about the provisions of Lokpal Bill which is under consideration of the Rajya Sabha.

The bill passed in the Lok Sabha states that the CBI Director should be selected through a collegium of the PM, the Leader of Opposition of LS and the Chief Justice of India. A Rajya Sabha Select Committee had made similar recommendations.

The GoM has also formulated official amendments to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 to make the changes it proposes in the functioning of the agency.

Through the affidavit, the government is likely to inform the apex court about its intent to make changes in the functioning of CBI. But at the same time, it will also inform the court that the change in the laws will be carried out by legislative procedure which may take time.

The amendments reflected in the affidavit will have to come back to the Union Cabinet for approval once the government plans to amend the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 which governs the functioning of CBI. The Parliamentary Standing Committee will also fine tune the changes at a later date.
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