The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Graft bill with govt shield
- Permission required to prosecute senior civil servants

New Delhi, Aug. 7: The Central Vigilance Commission bill was finally passed in the Rajya Sabha this afternoon, but the government retained the clause requiring the investigating agency to seek its permission to prosecute senior civil servants.

The bill will confer statutory status on the CVC to probe corruption cases against central public servants and corporations, societies and local authorities.

The commission will now have powers to direct the CBI and oversee important cases handled by the bureau under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

However, the bill says the Delhi Special Police Establishment, under which the CBI operates, “shall not conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, except with the previous approval of the central government, where such allegations related to the employees of the central government of the level of joint secretary and above...”

The Supreme Court had earlier struck down this clause saying permission need not be sought from the government. In 1997, during the hearing of the Jain hawala case, the apex court had issued a set of directives to get rid of corruption in high places, especially among political leaders and senior bureaucrats.

The court had also then ruled that existing government orders, which required permission to be taken from the Centre for investigating and prosecuting officials of the rank of joint secretary and above, should be struck off.

The government has, however, again brought in this clause and this is likely to be challenged once more.

Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani argued against the “protection” this bill provides to senior civil servants.

However, Union law minister Arun Jaitley assured the house that the government will have to show good reason if it denies permission to the CBI to investigate.

“In case the Centre denies permission for investigation against any such functionary, it should give reasons as to why the investigation has not been permitted,” Jaitley said.

The minister also suggested convening an all-party meeting to decide on fixing accountability of members of Parliament, but contended that decision makers and civil servants should be protected against frivolous complaints.

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