New Delhi: Terming the Cabinet's decision on CBI autonomy as a "camouflage", leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley on Sunday said it creates an 'illusion' by replacing political executive with its proxy institution and the move should be opposed by one and all.
The BJP leader said the Cabinet decision does not in any way immunize the CBI from political interference as was sought by the Supreme Court after the former Law Minister along with law officers and officials of PMO were "virtually caught red-handed" in attempting to "doctor" the CBI status report in the coal block allocation scam.
He also charged the UPA with ensuring its longevity by misusing CBI in investigation of corruption cases against the leaders of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party and said the agency's role in framing charges against BJP leaders in Gujarat and Rajasthan has demonstrated that "it is acting in order to serve the dictates of the party in power".
Cabinet decision on CBI is camouflage: Jaitely
"The recent decision of the Union Cabinet based on GOM recommendations is a camouflage. It creates an illusion by removing the political executive and creating a proxy institution instead. The government's decision is a remedy worse than the existing problem," Jaitley said in an article.
He said media reports indicate that Cabinet has approved the recommendations of the Group of Ministers, which include greater financial powers to the agency, a provision for time bound sanctions to investigate government officials, appointment of a Director by a collegium and the constitution of a panel of retired judges which will monitor investigations and ensure that there is no extraneous influence.
Opposing the move, Jaitley said in his article, "To create an institutional mechanism of unaccountable retired judges appointed by the government to whom the CBI would be accountable will only result in the government perpetuating its political control over the CBI by removing itself from the scene and creating a proxy institution which will act on its behalf. This move should be opposed by one and all."
‘Govt selected retired judges do not inspire confidence’
Questioning the judgements given by judges in the past prior to their retirement, Jaitley said "retired judges are an unaccountable institution". He said, "Government selected retired judges do not inspire confidence", adding that "pre-retirement conduct at times has been influenced by the desire to get post a retirement job."
Cabinet decision on CBI be placed before SC: Jaitely
He demanded that the government should place before the Supreme Court the recommendations of the Select Committee, the Cabinet decision of January 31, 2013 along with suggestions of other political parties that would result in ensuring immunity of CBI from political interference.
The BJP leader said the Supreme Court expressed its annoyance at what the government and the CBI had done in the coal blocks allocation probe. The court had asked the government to file an affidavit detailing the steps it intends to take in order to immunize the CBI from political interference, Jaitley said, adding "weak-kneed" UPA Government constituted a Group of Ministers to make appropriate recommendations with regard to functioning of CBI and the draft affidavit proposed to be filed before the Supreme Court.
"The Government made it appear as though some earth shaking new decision had to be taken on basis of the recommendations of the Group of Ministers. The decision taken at the meeting of the Cabinet does not in any way immunize the CBI from political interference," Jaitley said.
Issue of CBI’s functioning a matter of public debate
The BJP leader said the issue of CBI's functioning was debated in both Houses of Parliament and was a subject matter of public debate on the draft Lokpal legislation. He said an essential part of the legislative exercise was to ensure the independence of CBI and how to immunize it from political interference.
Recalling the recommendations given in the Rajya Sabha Select Committee by some BJP members, Jaitley said, "when the Supreme Court passed an order asking the government to outline the steps that it intends to take in order to immunize the CBI from political interference, the Government ought to have placed the near unanimous recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee to which even the UPA members had consented."
He said the entire package of arrangement would have ensured the appointment of a Director by an independent process, separation of a Directorate of Prosecution which would function on an independent basis rather than just be an officer on deputation from the Law Ministry.
He added that it would have ensured a fixed term for these high offices and there would be no fear or favour in as much as senior officers of the CBI are concerned since besides enjoying a fixed tenure they would not be eligible for re- employment in the government.
Jaitley said, "The Group of Ministers' recommendations and its approval by the Cabinet ignore all the above suggestions and now merely make the CBI accountable to a panel of retired judges."