New Delhi, Nov. 3: The Supreme Court today sought the Centre’s response on a provision in the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, according to which an investigating agency has to seek the government’s permission before a probe against any officer of joint secretary rank or even a bank manager.
The provision is known as “single directive” and was issued during P. Chidambaram’s tenure as Union finance minister in 1997 in the wake of the Indian Bank scam in which about Rs 3,000 crore loans were wiped off.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice V.. Khare and Justices S.B. Sinha and A.R. Lakshmanan has given four weeks to the Centre to reply on whether the “single directive”has been retained in the Act, passed by Parliament in its last session.
The bench has asked solicitor-general Kirit Raval to file the reply for the govern- ment as the amicus curiae in the case, senior counsel Anil Baburao Devan, contended that the “single directive” has been retained in the nascent Act.
In the Jain hawala case in 1997, the apex court had issued several directions mandating the Central Vigilance Commission to be the superintending authority for all the investigating agencies in order to free them from the clutches of the ruling party.
Raval told the court that the “single directive” clause was included in the bill on the suggestion of the Parliament’s select committee prior to its passage as an Act in both houses.
Devan, at this, pointed out that when retaining of the “single directive” clause in the ordinance was challenged, attorney-general Soli Sorabjee had assured the court that he would advise the government to drop the clause.
“The government did drop the clause in the ordinance but when it brought a bill to be passed as an Act, the clause has been retained,” Devan said.