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Autonomy to prosecution wing: new CBI chief writes to Centre

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Anil Sinha is learnt to have written to the Centre about a proposal to give “functional independence” to the director of prosecution (DoP), who is “under the overall supervision and control” of the CBI chief. The move by Sinha, who took over as CBI chief last month, comes at a time when the investigating agency is struggling to find its own autonomy amid charges of being a “caged parrot” of the government in power.

CBI sources declined to comment on the content of Sinha’s letter.

In the recent winter session of Parliament, the Narendra Modi led-National Democratic Alliance government had introduced the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, to give more autonomy to the DoP. The Bill is awaiting approval in both Houses of Parliament.

The DoP is in charge of the prosecution wing and is responsible for conducting prosecution, appeal and revision of cases. It examines cases resulting in acquittal, discharge or inadequate sentence and to determine whether appeals or revisions need to be filed. The DoP also advises the CBI chief on the comments on the final reports filed in any case. At present, the DoP is appointed by the Centre on the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission.

In order to provide autonomy to the CBI, the prosecution wing (which used to report to the Union law ministry) was brought under the CBI director in December 2013.

The amendment had allowed the CBI chief to give a final view over a filed case. However, according to the recently-proposed amendment, if there is any difference in opinion between the DoP and the CBI director on any case, the matter will be referred to the attorney general for his final views, thereby taking away the powers of the agency chief.

The Union government also seeks to revoke the CBI director’s power to write the annual performance appraisal report of the DoP. This report is the summary of the performance of the DoP, which used to be authored by the Union law ministry until December 2013. The government has decided to insert the following provision in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, “The annual performance appraisal report of the Director of Prosecution shall be recorded and maintained in the Ministry of Law and Justice.”

The proposed amendment also lists the eligibility criteria for appointing a DoP. According to the proposal, an officer from the Indian Legal Service at the joint secretary level and who is eligible to become a special public prosecutor (SSP) can be made a DoP. Further, it states that if the above criteria is not matched, then a lawyer who “has experience in handling cases on behalf of the government relating to offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002” and is in practice for 15 years can be considered for the DoP post.

According to the existing rules, the Central or state government can appoint an SSP for any case, but the lawyer should be in practice for at least 10 years.

Various political parties such as the Trinamool Congress have charged that the CBI is being misused by the government in power to carry out investigations. In May 2013, the Supreme Court had termed CBI a ‘caged parrot’ for sharing the initial report in a coal scam case with the Union law ministry under the then United Progressive Alliance government.

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