New Delhi: Parliament on Tuesday passed two bills to extend the tenure of the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to a maximum of five years from the earlier two years, with Rajya Sabha approving them by voice vote amid a walkout by the opposition.
Lok Sabha had on December 9 cleared the two bills which were brought to replace ordinances issued last month in this regard.
Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh moved 'The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2021' for consideration in Rajya Sabha to extend the maximum duration of the CBI director's tenure to five years on Tuesday. Most of the opposition parties, however, soon walked out over the issue of the suspension of their 12 members.
Immediately after the passage of the bill by a voice vote, Singh tabled the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to extend the tenure of ED director to up to five years from two years which was also passed by voice vote.
Earlier, the Minister of State of Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan proposed for a joint debate on bills but it was opposed by several members following which Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh decided to take them separately.
While moving the bill on the CBI chief's tenure extension, Singh said the government is working to check corruption and to ensure and enhance transparency.
In recent years, he said, the nation is faced with the triple menace of corruption, black money and international crime that is linked to drug trafficking, terrorism and criminal offences, and all these are a threat to the security and financial structure of the country.
The methodology of crime has changed and is highly sophisticated and structured which makes crime investigation a far more difficult task, he said, stressing that the bill will help maintain the pace of probe.
"These amendments have been brought in also because the financial action task force, of which India is a member country, also expects us to improve the resources for financial crime investigation and international crime," he said.
The minister underscored that each one-year extension of tenure will have a reason put on record and "we will go through the same selection process''.
During his speech, Singh was interrupted by the opposition members who were protesting against the suspension of 12 members.
While introducing the CVC (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Singh said the amendments are in the interest of national security and for the stability of the financial structure.
"Enforcement director has a very crucial role even in money laundering cases and it is possibly the only agency of its kind available in India. But for India, most of the other countries have a much longer term. And here also, the term is not being made indefinite...," he said.
The clause on tenure which says "not less than two years" is just being amended to "go up to five years" with a one-year extension on each occasion, he added.
The minister questioned the motive of the opposition in not participating in the discussion on the bill.
He said that "incidentally but not insignificantly" most of the laundering cases being investigated by the agency belong to the 10-year tenure of the UPA 1 and UPA 2 governments and "involves some of the high and mighty of those times".
"To that extent, I can say it is a sad day in the history of Parliament that a principal opposition party has chosen not to side with those who are working against black money but to side with those who are the beneficiaries of black money," Singh said.
Participating in a discussion on the bill, BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao said the bills to extend the tenures of CBI and ED directors ensure that both institutions will work more efficiently.
"Properties worth Rs 89,547 crore were attached under PMLA cases and (attachment of properties worth) Rs 50,945 crore has already been confirmed by the adjudicating authorities," he said.
Narasimha cited several observations of the Supreme Court in various cases, including the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas, to attack the opposition parties.
Republican Party of India leader and Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale spoke in favour of the bill.
"Corruption should end. Black money should end and more money should come into the national treasury," Athawale said.
Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP said the government has taken a number of initiatives over the past few years in its relentless fight against corruption.
The government has brought in a law to stop black money from being routed through Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore. It has also brought the fugitive economic offenders law to empower law enforcement agencies to confiscate the assets of economic absconders, he said.
Other initiatives such as online auction of coal blocks and direct benefit transfer have plugged leakages in the system and ensured transparency, he added.
Suresh Prabhu of the BJP said that there may be a debate on whether it should be five years or three years or seven years, but it is absolutely important that the tenure should be long enough to discharge duty efficiently.
Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) MP Subhash Chandra Bose Pilli, TDP member Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar, AIADMK member M Thambidurai and BJP MP Rakesh Sinha also participated in the debate. PTI