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GoM To Insulate CBI From External Influence

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Almost a week after the government was severely reprimanded by the Supreme Court for influencing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the coal scam, the government on Tuesday, 14 May 2013, set up a Group of Ministers to draft a law to insulate the investigating agency from external influence.

The GoM, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, has External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy as members, official sources said.

CBI Director Ranjit Sinha will also give his input to the newly-constitued GoM. The Group of Ministers will deliberate on ways to further strengthen CBI's autonomy and safeguard it from any kind of outside interferences, they said.

The Supreme Court last week had called the CBI "a caged parrot" which "speaks in its master's voice" after the investigating agency admitted in an affidavit that Ashwani Kumar, who quit as the Law Minister on 10 May, and senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office and the coal ministry had made certain changes in the report on the allocation of coal blocks.

"...CBI has become a caged parrot. We can't have CBI a caged parrot speaking in master's voice. It is a sordid saga where there are many masters and one parrot,"  the apex court had said during a hearing on May 6.

Read Also: CBI A Caged Parrot, Has Many Masters: SC
Read Also: 'Liberate CBI From Political Interference'

The Court's direction had come following an affidavit from the CBI Director, who admitted to have shared a draft coal block allocation probe report with former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and two joint secretaries--Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla--in the Prime Minister's Office and Coal Ministry respectively.

"Our first exercise will be to liberate CBI from political interference," the bench said earlier on 30 April, 2013. In his affidavit, the CBI Director had said, "I submit that the draft of the same (status report) was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them."

During the hearing, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre whether it was contemplating a law to make the working of the CBI independent and insulate it from extraneous intrusion and interferences.

The country's top law officer, Attorney General GE Vahanvati, was also smeared by the coal scandal for seeing a draft of the CBI's probe report, had agreed with the Supreme Court that the agency should be made more independent.

The GoM will finalise its findings and draft a law which will be submitted to the Supreme Court before July 10, next date of hearing of the case. CBI, which is probing irregularities in allocation of coal mine blocks on the direction of CVC, has so far registered 11 FIRs in the matter.