The government has developed cold feet on its recommendation to revisit 2,400 CBI cases pending in trial courts for over 10 years to identify those unlikely to end in a conviction, so that they could be withdrawn.
The latest U-turn on a 16-month-old recommendation by a Group of Ministers (GoM) comprising nine top UPA ministers, follows resistance from some government departments and the Supreme Court’s (SC) refusal to provide the name of a retired judge to head an expert group to review these cases.
The GoM, now headed by defence minister AK Antony following former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee being elected as President, will discuss the matter again. The Department of Personnel and Training, which enjoys administrative control over the CBI, has opposed the recommendation of the GoM to tackle corruption. The department’s view was conveyed in the GoM meeting last week."It would raise questions on the earlier decisions of various ministries and departments which had allowed the investigating agency to proceed with these cases and file chargesheets in courts," the DoPT said.
It also cautioned that the move to withdraw cases might not be allowed by courts. The other reason behind the government taking a step back is the snub from the SC.
In response to a letter from the DoPT, seeking names of a panel of retired judges, from among whom one of them could head the expert group, the SC asked the government to cite the specific rule under which names had been sought.
“The government request was based on sound precedents since top-level committees are to be led by individuals of impeccable integrity. The SC, however, insisted on going by the rule,” said a senior government official.
The GoM, in its recommendation in April 2011, stated: “The panel could look at cases pending for over 10 years, particularly those under the Prevention of Corruption Act and suggest ways for their speedy disposal including withdrawal...”
The GoM decision was taken following a suggestion from the CBI to reduce the large number of cases stuck in trial courts by taking a re-look at them.