The lokpal should not be an "all-encompassing behemoth", but the bill is another opportunity to make the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) an autonomous body in a real sense, journalist and social activist Vineet Narain has said.
"Team Anna is asking for the moon," Narain told HT. "There is an urgent need to strengthen the existing mechanism of CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and the CBI."
To this end, he suggested three first steps: abolish the single directive — a rule to have prior sanction before probing officials of the rank of joint secretary or above; financial autonomy for the CBI; inclusion of more members in the CVC to make it broad-based.
"I hope the MPs would bring amendments in this regard," said the journalist, whose PIL in the Jain hawala case in the Supreme Court had provided the first glimmer of hope for an autonomous and efficient CBI.
The 1997 SC judgment in the case provided for statutory powers for the CVC, quashing of the single directive, fixed tenure for the CBI director among other provisions for its autonomous functioning.
But, according to Narain, far from quashing the single directive, the NDA included it in the CVC Act of 2003. The CVC has monitoring power over the CBI, so the inclusion of the single directive in the CVC Act became a major hindrance in the CBI’s functioning. This is one reason why the anti-corruption stance of the BJP cannot be termed serious, Narain said.
"If the government doesn’t want to fully abolish the single directive, it should at least be made time-bound," he said. If the CBI seeks permission to investigate senior officials, the department concerned should be duty-bound to reply within a stipulated time. "If permission is denied, an explanation should be included," Narain added.