Centre comes out with slew of anti-graft measures

Greater Kashmir

New Delhi, Sep 14: Under attack over corruption, the Government of India today came out with a slew of anti-graft measures which include doing away with certain discretionary powers of ministers, a three-month limit to grant sanction for prosecution and setting up of fast-track courts.
 The measures form part of the recommendations of a Group of Ministers (GoM) to curb corruption, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which were submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
 The recommendations of the GoM, which was set up in January, will be implemented through government orders soon, Law Minister Salman Khursheed and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy told reporters here.
 A new policy and a bill on public procurement in the Winter Session of Parliament to tackle corruption and make the procedure more transparent, they said.
 Narayanasamy said the GoM has recommended that the ministers would have no discretionary powers in the allotment of land, telephone and petrol pumps.
 “These powers have been removed,” barring in cases of compensation to victims of Naxal violence by the Home Ministry and to war widows by the Defence Ministry, he said.
 The misuse of discretionary quota came into focus after cases of corruption came to light last year.
 The measures are in tune with the suggestions made by Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the party’s Burari convention.
 In all corruption cases where the investigating agency seeks sanction for prosecution, it would be mandatory for the competent authority, including the prime minister and the ministers concerned, to take a decision and give a ‘speaking order’ within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the request.
 In the event of refusal of sanction to prosecute, the competent authority would have to submit its order, including the reasons for refusal, to the next higher authority for information within seven days, Narayanasamy said.
 Wherever the minister in-charge of the department is the competent authority and he decides to deny permission for prosecution, it would be incumbent on the minister to report it to the prime minister within seven days.
 On the fast-tracking of almost 10,000 pending CBI cases, he said a decision to set up 71 special courts has been taken and 44 of them have started working already.
 A committee, headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge, would be set up for studying cases which have been pending trial for more than 10 years and make recommendations for their speedy disposal or withdrawal.
 The committee, which would look at cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, would include retired CVC, CBI director and another person of impeccable repute from civil society, he said, adding that almost 2,600 cases were over a decade old.
 Asked whether anti-graft measures were being announced under the impact of the Anna Hazare agitation, he pointed out that the GoM on corruption was set up on January 6, much before Hazare began his fast in April.