New Delhi, Nov 27: Parliament on Thursday passed the bill to amend the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to include leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as a member of the CBI chief selection committee, instead of the leader of opposition.
The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by the Rajya Sabha Thursday after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured the house that the government intends to work through consensus on the appointment of chief of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and wants to strengthen the systems.
The bill, passed by Lok Sabha Wednesday, assumes significance as current CBI director Ranjit Sinha's term ends Dec 2.
The act provides for a three member committee, comprising the prime minister (chairperson), the chief justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him, and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, to make recommendations to the central government for appointment of the director.
The amendment bill changes the provision relating to the leader of opposition, stating that where there is no leader of opposition, the leader of the single largest opposition party would instead be part of the committee.
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. Congress is the largest opposition party in the house and Mallikarjun Kharge is its leader.
In his reply to the debate on the bill, Jailtey said that the government will accord due respect to the leader of the largest party in the Lok Sabha.
He said there was a practice of sharing names on the panel a day before the meeting of the committee and it would be followed.
"We will like to have consensus...We want the system to be strengthened," Jaitley said.
"The motivation (for the bill) is that CBI must be a fair agency and there should be participation of opposition," he said.
He admitted that there was inconsistencies in language of some legislations.
Pointing to the Right to Information Act, he said it refers to "single largest group" instead of single largest party in the process of appointments.
Jaitley said if the government had used the same word in the bill, there could be a possibility of two parties in the Lok Sabha joining hands and saying they form the largest group.
"I am not giving Trinamool Congress a new idea," he quipped.
Jaitley said that at some point, inconsistencies in language in various legislations would have to be removed.
He also defended the provision that the appointment of the director would not be invalid on the grounds of any vacancy or absence of a member of the committee.
He said there could be exception that Lok Sabha or an assembly is dissolved and there was no leader of opposition or leader of single largest party. He also recalled there had been instances of a leader of opposition in a state not attending such meetings due to differences with the chief minister.
Jaitley had also defended the provision in his initial remarks and said that that identical provision exits in all organisations where a collegium makes the appointment.