Union ministers are set to lose their power to distribute sops to individuals and organisations of their choice, if the Cabinet accepts the recommendations of a group of ministers (GoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The GoM, which met on Monday, was unanimous on scrapping the discretionary quotas of ministers, which allegedly led to certain individuals deriving “pecuniary benefits”.
The nine-member group, set up last month to devise a framework for fighting corruption, also decided to tell ministries to allow prosecution of chargesheeted officials in three months.
The issue was first raised by Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi during the party’s plenary session last December.
The group is also understood to have cleared fast-track handling of all corruption cases. And where prosecution has been granted against corrupt officials, the cases must be decided in a year.
Since two key ministers from the Congress’ allies – agriculture minister Sharad Pawar of the NCP and chemicals and fertilisers minister MK Alagiri of the DMK – could not attend the meeting, it was decided to take their nod later on the issue.
It has also been decided to segregate discretionary quotas in 38 ministries into two categories – those which led to monetary benefits and those required for smooth functioning of the government, such as appointments in corporations. The view is to allow the latter to remain.
There were, however, differences within the group on whether to amend article 311 of the Constitution, which provides a shield to government employees against summary dismissal from service. This is likely to be taken up by the group in its next meeting.