The Modi government has initiated a move to gain a greater say in Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) prosecutions by making the CBI’s chief prosecution officer “functionally independent” of his boss, the CBI director.
The director of prosecution (DoP) is a government nominee, unlike the CBI chief, who is selected by a panel made up of the Prime Minister, head of the opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
The latest development dilutes the effect of changes in the law made last year that ensured that the DoP, who decides if a case is fit for criminal prosecution, would have to function “under the overall supervision and control” of the CBI director.
Under the new legislation being brought before Parliament in the current winter session, the DoP can disagree with the CBI chief, and the government’s top law officer, the attorney general, will be given the power to adjudicate when there is a difference of opinion.
This dilution of the CBI chief’s control over a key function comes 18 months after Supreme Court slammed the CBI for being a “caged parrot” and called for it to operate independently.
An official statement said the proposed amendments would provide “functional independence” to the DoP, who is a joint secretary-rank officer.
The CBI and the government have been in a tug of war over control of the prosecution wing, that was completely under the law ministry’s charge till last year.
This position changed after a Supreme Court verdict and then the lokpal law which placed him under the CBI director.
A government official said the provision to refer cases to the attorney general in case of differences was a convention that had been followed by the agency for years.
Since the DoP was under the CBI director’s control now, there was a need to give this convention statutory backing.
The Supreme Court had first recommended creation of an independent directorate of prosecution in the CBI in its famous Vineet Narain judgment of 1997 to end government interference in cases investigated by the agency.
But successive governments have resisted giving up control over the prosecution wing.