Lok Sabha passes bill to amend CBI chief’s selection process

New Delhi : The Lok Sabha Wednesday passed a bill to amend the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to include 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.

The amendment will also do away with the requirement of quorum in the high-powered committee to select the Central Bureau of Investigation chief.

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The current Lok Sabha does not have a recognised leader of opposition. Under the statutory provisions, the post goes to the party that has at least 10 percent of the house’s strength as elected members, currently pegged at 55.

The bill, which assumes significance as current CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s term ends Dec 2, was passed amid stiff opposition from the Congress, who alleged that it was aimed at keeping the largest opposition party out of the selection process.

With the amendment, the search panel for the CBI chief will comprise of the prime minister, chief justice of India and the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

At present, the leader of opposition was entitled to be in the selection panel.

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.

The Congress vehemently opposed the bill in Lok Sabha, saying it was against the spirit of democracy.

“The quorum issue is (creating) a criminal precedent. This can happen only in a dictatorship and not democracy,” said Congress’ M. Veerappa Moily.

“This is an illegitimate amendment. That is why there are serious implications. This has not happened in the history of parliament or any legislature,” he said.

The senior Congress leader said: “Institutions are important for nurturing democracy in any country. They have started destroying these democratic institutions. This will have far-reaching repercussions and consequences in a democracy.”

His party colleague and party leader in the house Mallikarjun Kharge said: “If people who believe in democracy dilute all laws, then it is not good for democracy.”