In a move that could put the shackles back on the CBI and overburden the lokpal, the Modi government has decided to bar the CBI from probing any public servant on bribery charges without the lokpal's approval.
In the states, this permission will have to be given by the respective lokayukta or any such authority established by the state government.
This is the third attempt to introduce the shield for public servants, commonly referred to as the Single Directive. The previous attempts were quashed by the Supreme Court in 1997 and 2014.
Last May, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had struck down the law that required the CBI to get government permission to probe joint secretary-level officers and above. The court held the law could not discriminate between two sets of public servants depending on their rank.
The proposed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill - that was vetted by the Law Commission last week - works around the SC judgment by extending this shield to all public servants irrespective of their rank and whether or not they are still serving.
So the CBI would need the lokpal's clearance to probe even a peon or a Delhi Police constable unless it catches the corrupt while accepting the money.
A senior police officer - who had earlier served in the CBI — said the proposed provision could end up hobbling the lokpal.
"The CBI annually registers more than 650 corruption cases .... So the lokpal will have to clear an average of over 2 FIRs every working day before they catch the corrupt," the police officer told HT. Another 4,200 bribery cases are registered across the country that would need to be cleared by the Lokayuktas.
"The government would have done a better job of protecting honest officers if it empowered the lokpal - rather than the government - to grant prosecution sanction after the probe is complete," criminal lawyer RK Handoo said.