Amend law to make CBI autonomous, SC tells government

The Supreme Court today pulled up the government for failure to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its probe into the coal block allocation scam and said the law will have to be amended to make CBI free from political interference.

Hearing a petition on the coalmine allocation scam, the apex court lashed out at the central government saying the manner in which the investigating agency is struggling with the probe showed that the government has not been very forthcoming and helpful.

The Supreme Court, which had earlier described the CBI as a "caged parrot" speaking its master's (central government's) voice, said, "The law will have to be amended for CBI autonomy. Let the amendments come in Parliament, since the law has to be enacted by the legislature."

If Parliament is unable to make law on the autonomy for CBI, it may make ad hoc arrangements to ensure it, the court observed.

The Supreme Court also asked the CBI to come with their views on the affidavit filed by central government "on the steps taken by them (government) on CBI autonomy".

The apex court, however, expressed satisfaction with the government's proposal for setting up a panel comprising the prime minister, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India to appoint the CBI director.

The government had earlier filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court listing measures to make CBI autonomous.

The court also reprimanded the government for not incorporating recommendations of state governments on coal block allocation and instead going by the subjective opinion of the screening committee alone.

The court also directed the government to file records of all 36 steering committee meetings for coal block allocation.

The CBI had filed an application seeking the apex court's permission to share probe details with the government in the light of the 8 May directive of the court not to share any information with the government.

While the government has outlined some steps to make the CBI autonomous, the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court is silent on some vital aspects of the CBI's autonomy.

The government still retains its policy on 'single directive', a tool that could be used to protect ''favourite'' civil servants who have acceded to irregular executive demands.

Under the ''single directive'', a government nod is required even to initiate a preliminary enquiry against a civil servant of and above the rank of joint secretary.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a government nod is required before filing an appeal in courts against an acquittal of a civil servant, which is another drag on CBI's freedom.