M A I N   N E W S

Ministers lose discretionary powers
PM accepts report of GoM on corruption, government gets into combat mode
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, September 14
As social activist Anna Hazare’s movement picks up momentum, the UPA government today pushed ahead several key steps aimed at combating corruption.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepted the first report of the specially-constituted Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption following which the government will begin the expeditious implementation of its proposals which include fast-tracking of corruption cases against public servants, doing away with the discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers and setting up of 71 special CBI courts for speedy clearance of corruption cases.

Addressing a joint press conference here today, Law Minister Salman Khursheed and V Narayansamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), said the package of measures will be extended to electoral reforms, setting up a Judicial Commission for the appointment of judges, an open and competitive system for allocation of natural resources and a new Bill to streamline public procurement.

In another far-reaching decision, the Prime Minister has accepted the recommendation of the ministerial panel to do away with the discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers in the allotment of land, telephones and petrol pumps.

“Except in cases of compensation to victims of Naxal violence and to war widows, other powers have been removed,” Narayansamy said.

Giving details about the new measures, Narayansamy said that under the new rules, which will come into effect shortly, the concerned ministry or department will have to give permission for the initiation of legal action against a corrupt official within three months.

This has been a major bone of contention because investigating agencies have been constrained from proceeding against corrupt public servants because of the inordinate delay in getting the necessary permission, which often allowed the concerned officials to go scot free.

In case the requested sanction is turned down, ministers and department heads, Narayansamy said, will have to give reasons for this decision to the next higher authority within a week’s time. Whenever such permission is denied by the minister in charge, the matter would have to placed before the Prime Minister.

Keen to send out a message that the government is serious about curbing corruption, it was also decided that there could be a 20 per cent cut in the pension of government officials who are found to be guilty after retirement. Those guilty in minor cases will have to forgo 10 per cent of their pension for a maximum period of five years.

With nearly 10,000 cases pending with the CBI, the minister said, it had been decided to set up 71 special courts and 44 of these have already started functioning. He said it had also been decided to set up a special committee, headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge, to look into the cases which have been pending for more than 10 years and suggest ways of disposing these of expeditiously.

Khursheed said they are also moving fast to plug loopholes in the governmental purchase of goods which has been identified as a major source of corruption. A Public Procurement Bill, he said, will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament to bring in greater transparency and accountability in these purchases while public procurement standards and a public procurement policy are also on the anvil.

This is in line with the promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his Independence Day speech, he said.

on the cards

  • The GoM’s proposals include fast-tracking of corruption cases, doing away with discretionary powers of ministers and setting up of 71 CBI courts to clear corruption cases.
  • The ministry concerned will now have to give permission for the initiation of legal action against a corrupt official in three months
  • There could be a 20% cut in the pension of officials who are found to be guilty of corruption after retirement.

All-party meeting on poll reforms

In an attempt to preempt Team Anna’s proposed campaign on electoral reforms, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has proposed to convene an all-party meeting for consultations on de-criminalising the system and preventing corrupt candidates from entering politics.





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