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New Delhi: Taking a cue from last week’s adverse comments by the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a group of ministers (GoM) to draft a law that will eventually seek to insulate the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from political influence.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, law minister Kapil Sibal and minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions V. Narayanasamy are among
the members of the GoM that will present a draft to the Supreme Court before the next hearing in the case on coal block allocation irregularities on 10 July.

CBI comes under the department of personnel and training, which is under the overall remit of the Prime Minister. The agency’s director Ranjit Sinha will also provide inputs to the GoM.

The apex court last week observed that CBI was subject to political interference.

“CBI has become a caged parrot. We can’t have CBI, a caged parrot, speaking in master’s voice. It is a sordid saga where there are many masters and one parrot," it said during a 6 May hearing of a case about the intervention of the government in an investigation concerning irregularities in the allotment of coal mines—also by the government.

The court’s direction came following an affidavit filed by the CBI director in which he admitted to having shared a report on the agency’s investigations into the coal block allotments with then law minister Ashwani Kumar and two joint secretaries—Shatrughna Singh and A.K. Bhalla—in the Prime Minister’s Office and coal ministry, respectively. Kumar was sacked last week over his role in the affair.

“No government would like to part with control over the CBI. But in this case, the government cannot ignore the Supreme Court order. We are hopeful that something will come out of it," said former CBI director Joginder Singh.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to term the government’s move an “eyewash".

“It’s a complete farce. There was no need of setting up a GoM for this. They (government) could have used Rajya Sabha’s select committee report on Lokpal (the anti-corruption ombudsman), which deals with providing autonomy to CBI," said a senior BJP leader who asked not to be identified.

The select committee, which had members from all political parties, had earlier suggested that a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India should select the CBI director.

It had also said that no retired CBI director should be appointed to government office once his term was over.

Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wrote in his blog on Tuesday: “Even though the Supreme Court laid down certain guidelines, the government overthe last 17 years found out methods of bypassing those guidelines. The entire movement for the enactment of a Lokpal and a liberated CBI has yet not succeeded. At every stage, the government has been slow and reluctant."

PTI contributed to this story.

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