Parliament amends law for next CBI chief’s appointment

Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley

  Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence Arun Jaitley leaves for the Parliament from North Block to present General Budget 2014-15 in New Delhi on July 10, 2014. (Photo: IANS)Parliament  approved amendments to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to provide for appointment of a CBI director in a situation where there is no leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, paving way for naming a new agency chief before incumbent Ranjit Sinha retires Dec 2.

The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by the Rajya Sabha  after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured the house that the government intends to work through consensus on the appointment of chief of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and wants to strengthen the systems.

The bill, passed by Lok Sabha Wednesday, provides for including the leader of the single largest opposition party as a member of the selection committee to choose the CBI chief, instead of the leader of opposition as in the act earlier.

The step had to be taken as there is no leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, with largest opposition party Congress falling below required numbers to claim the post.

The bill also does away with the need of all members to be present to chose a CBI chief.

Mallikarjun Kharge is currently the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha and is likely to get the post in the panel.

“The idea is that when there is no recognised leader of opposition, we must have a representative of opposition party in the collegium,” said Jaitley, who tabled the bill in Rajya Sabha.

Participating in the debate on the bill, Congress leader Anand Sharma said it should not appear as if the government is doing a favour to the opposition.

“We know that the government has come with this amendment, but this impression should not be created that the government is obliging the opposition,” he said.

In response, Jaitley said: “The very object that we have voluntarily brought this bill is not that we are showing courtesy to any party… We are just strengthening the act.”

It was a part of the reforms for CBI, he said.

“This is a part of CBI reforms… Some other reforms in the functioning of CBI are in the Lokpal act itself, which we have almost unanimously approved… CBI should be fair,” Jaitley said.

On the need to do away with the quorum issue in the meetings of the collegium, the minister said meetings were being hindered due to this clause.

“For years together the meeting would be postponed… If the LoP (leader of opposition) says I will not attend the meet, any decision will become invalid,” Jaitley said, adding that it may be possible that the prime minister or chief justice of India are not able to attend the meet.

In his reply to the debate on the bill, Jailtey said that the government will accord due respect to the leader of the largest party in the Lok Sabha.

He said there was a practice of sharing names on the panel a day before the meeting of the committee and it would be followed.

“We will like to have consensus…We want the system to be strengthened,” Jaitley said.

“The motivation (for the bill) is that CBI must be a fair agency and there should be participation of opposition,” he said.

The act provides for a three member committee, comprising the prime minister (chairperson), the chief justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him, and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, to make recommendations to the central government for appointment of the director.

The enactment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (also known as Lokpal Act) earlier this year has automatically amended the DSPE Act to make changes in the selection panel.

Before the Lokpal Act amended the DSPE Act, a committee headed by Central Vigilance Commissioner used to recommend names for CBI director.