Law Ministry opposed government's move to dilute CBI boss' power on prosecutions
New Delhi: The Union Law Ministry opposed the move of its own government to dilute the powers of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director but later yielded after a high-level meeting.
A report by Hindustan Times report the Law Ministry, headed by DV Sadananda Gowda, disagreed with a Department of Personnel & Training proposal that gave the Attorney General the last word on CBI prosecutions.
The high level meeting was held on December 1 last year, three days after the Ministry showed reservations. The meeting was attended by senior civil servants, including an official from the Prime Minister's Office
Under the new legislation, proposed in the Winter Session of the Parliament in December, the director of prosecution (DoP) can disagree with the CBI chief and the government's top law officer, the Attorney General, will be given the power to adjudicate when there is a difference of opinion.
The DoP is a government nominee, unlike the CBI chief, who is selected by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, head of the opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
The government's proposal was met with the huge opposition in the Parliament. The opposition parties forced the government to send the bill to a standing committee, which is due to submit its report by the end of June.
The Law Ministry objected to the changes too and said that the provision may not pass the judicial test, citing a Supreme Court verdict of 2000.
In the case, a two-judge SC bench ruled only a police officer or his superior, could decide if an accused should be sent on trial. It pointed that they were under no legal obligation to seek the public prosecutor's views under the code of criminal procedure.
"In view of the above, it may not be prudent to adopt a formation proposed (sic)… as the same may not withstand judicial scrutiny," deputy legal adviser RS Verma said in his 28 November note approved by legislative department secretary Sanjay Singh.
The Law Ministry advised that the CBI director's decision should be final which is to be taken after consulting AG. This would retain the agency's power rather that bound by government appointed AG's opinion.
The DoPT, which was drafting the bill, proposed to report the difference of opinion to the Cabinet and ask ministers to take the final call but the Cabinet Secretariat wanted the differences reconciled so a meeting was called.
The meeting, which was attended by secretaries of the departments of law, legislative, personnel and a PMO official, Law Ministry officials were convinced citing SC judgments in the 1997 Jain hawala diary case and the 1996 Bihar fodder scam case.
The SC had called for an impartial agency for supervising prosecutions launched by the CBI and enforcement directorate in Jain hawala diary case and had directed that AG's views would be final in case of difference of opinion amongst CBI officers on prosecuting accused in the fodder scam probe.