Centre rejects demand to empower CBI

The central government has rejected the Supreme Court's demand for functional autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and granting the director of the investigating agency ex-officio power of secretary to the central government and his reporting directly to the minister-in-charge.

RANJIT SINHAThe government told the apex court that it would create a new precedent and lead to heartburn in similarly-placed organisations.

Holding the CBI as its "subordinate office", the centre rejected the plea for the grant of more power to its director, saying that it would be bad in law if such demands were met, resulting in "vesting unbridled power in one authority".

It its 23-page affidavit filed in the top court, the government submitted that although the director was in the grade and pay scale of the secretary, the agency's demand for ex-officio power could not be granted as it would alter the organisational relationship between the government department and its subordinate offices.

"While considering the demands of a particular subordinate office like the CBI, it has to keep in mind the issue of parity with similarly-placed organisations and it is not desirable to create new precedent which would create heartburn in similarly-placed organisations.

"The mere fact of same pay scales does not alter the organisational relationship between the government departments and its subordinate offices. Other central armed forces, central police organisations, officers of the armed services many of whom may be enjoying similar pay scales or even higher to that of the secretary to the government but that does not alter the official procedure," the affidavit said.

According to the government, if such demand by one organisation was acceded to by the government, there would be similar demands raised by other subordinate organisations.

"Government is accountable and answerable to Parliament and therefore the right of the executive to run the government, subject to checks and balances, cannot be taken away," it said, adding, "Granting the ex-officio powers of the secretary would run contrary to the rules and affect the statutory scheme of governance."

Following the development, MoS PMO Narayansamy said, the decision in this regard had been taken by the executive in good faith, and should be treated as bonafide.

The development comes only days after finance minister P Chidambaram and prime minister Manmohan Singh maintained that the centre would protect the future of the CBI and its legality.

The centre has come under repeated criticism for misuse of the investigating agency and attempts at influencing its working for political gains.

It was also a couple of months back that the apex court made the observation that the CBI was a caged bird and stressed the need for vesting it with more powers.

"The CBI has become a caged parrot speaking in its master's voice. It's a sordid saga that there are many masters and giving unbridled power to the CBI is not possible. The CBI has become the police force and is in the administrative control of the central government. CBI investigations have to be independent," the SC had said in its observations in the coal scam case.