In a move that will ensure continuance of the single directive, the group of ministers (GoM) on corruption, headed by Pranab Mukherjee, has decided against taking a call on removing the controversial legal provision.
The single directive is a provision in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes it mandatory for the CBI to seek clearance from the government before investigating corruption cases involving joint secretary-level officers and higher.
The GoM, that has rejected dilution of the constitutional shield against dismissal for corrupt officers, has decided to let the department of personnel and training (DoPT) — the nodal department handling vigilance-related legislations — to take a call independently.
Incidentally, it was DoPT that inserted this provision to tie down the CBI, initially by an executive directive.
When the Supreme Court quashed the executive directive, DoPT piloted an amendment to the law to incorporate this controversial provision in 2003.
In view of several instances of departments sitting on requests for permission to act against corrupt officers, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) had recommended taking away this power to sanction investigation from the government and empowering the Central Vigilance Commission instead. law minister Veerappa Moily who headed the reforms commission is also a member of the GoM. But an empowered group of ministers tasked to implement the ARC recommendations had rejected Moily’s recommendation in 2009.
The demand resurfaced this year when the GoM on corruption was constituted in the backdrop of the several scandals denting the image of the government and a clear message from the Congress president to look at systemic changes to overhaul the system.
Also, on the GoM’s table this year was the recommendation to dilute the constitutional shield provided by Article 311 to civil servants from arbitrary dismissal.
This provision has been widely acknowledged to stand in the way of quick and decisive action against corrupt civil servants. Moily has backed watering down the constitutional shield, first as the ARC chairman and later as the law minister.