Discretionary powers enjoyed by central ministers should be regulated by clearly defined and publicly stated guidelines to “minimise any arbitrariness” in their use, the group of ministers (GoM) to tackle corruption has recommended to the Prime Minister's Office.
The nine-member GoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, in its second report submitted to the PMO last week, stopped short of recommending total scrapping of the powers.
The GoM made this recommendation after it received information from all the 84 central ministries/departments, 37 of them said they had no discretionary powers.
“The department for personnel and training should issue a general advisory to all ministries/departments to carry out an exercise for putting in place regulating parameters for exercise of discretionary powers,” states the report.
The mandate of the GoM, which was set-up in January last year by the Prime Minister to recommend effective measures to tackle corruption, included recommending to the government whether "discretionary powers enjoyed by central ministers could be relinquished."
It had set the ball rolling to scrap these powers. But, the feedback from most ministries forced the GoM to amend the original proposal.
Widely criticised discretionary powers such as allotment of petrol pumps, issue of gas coupons and admission in Kendriya Vidyalayas have already been done away with.
"It was seen that in a majority of cases, the discretionary powers are in fact powers exercised by the ministers in performance of their bonafide duties," the GoM had stated in its internal note in September.
Majority of the ministries, which enjoy curtailed discretionary powers informed the GoM that these pertain to ministry’s important functioning such as appointments to boards and corporations, which are done in accordance of defined rules.
The issue of scrapping discretionary powers of Congress-ruled states was first raised by part chief Sonia Gandhi in 2010.