GoM for faster sanction, no discretionary powers for ministers

Pranab mukherjee
The Group of Ministers on corruption headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is learnt to have decided to recommend to the Government to put an end to all discretionary powers enjoyed by the ministers.

Currently, 38 departments in the government have discretionary powers given to the respective ministers.

Another crucial recommendation of the GoM may be to make it mandatory for the appropriate administrative department to decide requests from investigative agencies for prosecution sanction within three months.

The GoM is also learnt to have decided to recommend to the Ministry of Personnel to bring an amendment in the All India Service Rules, which govern civil servants, to provide for summary dismissal of corrupt government officials.

The recommendations are likely to be finalised at the GoM's next meeting on February 14.

As first reported by The Indian Express, DoPT Secretary Alka Sirohi had last month written an urgent letter to all ministries asking them to provide details of discretionary powers enjoyed by the ministers. The DoPT had also sought details of the instances in which such powers were used by the ministers and senior functionaries of the ministries.

Sources said the information collected by the DoPT was submitted to the Mukherjee-led GoM, which has now decided to recommend that discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers should be withdrawn.

Among the ministries that have discretionary powers are Railways, Petroleum, HRD, Finance, Urban Development, Health.

In December, speaking at an All Indian Congress convention, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked her party's Union ministers and chief ministers to "set an example by reviewing and relinquishing powers related to land allocation" and other discretionary powers.

She had also said there was "ample evidence" that all discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation, breed corruption.

The issue of pending prosecution sanction against civil servants assumes significance in the context of CVC P J Thomas, in whose a request for grant of prosecution sanction under the law is pending since 1999.

The other members of the eight-member GoM are Home Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Defence Minister A K Antony, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, HRD and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Fertiliser Minister M K Alagiri.

One of the terms of reference of the GoM is to consider and advise on "consideration of relevance/need for Section 6(A) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946", which says that an inquiry against a government employee of the level of Joint Secretary and above can't be conducted into any offence alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act except with the previous approval of the Central government.

Sometime back, raids by the Income Tax Department on the residence of an IAS couple in Bhopal had led to the recovery of crores of rupees, apart from evidence to suggest that the the couple Arvind and Tinu Joshi had a sprawling real-estate empire.

Meanwhile, another GoM, this one headed by Home Minister P Chidambram, to consider the proposals mooted by the Union Law Ministry on ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Corruption met here today.

Sources said the GoM is set to recommend to the Government to bring a Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament to ratify the UN Convention.

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