Officers of the rank of Joint Secretaries will also be covered under a key directive to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission and other departments in probing corruption with the government rectifying an error 20 months after it crept into an office order.
A Group of Ministers, which was then headed by Pranab Mukherjee when he was Finance Minister, had in its report submitted to the government recommended that refusal to grant permission to CBI among others to probe a corrupt official "of the rank of Joint Secretary and above" will have to be put up to the Prime Minister.
The recommendations of the GoM were accepted by the government.
Following this, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had in September 2011 issued an office memorandum for implementation to all central government departments and CBI mentioning the word "above" the level of Joint Secretary in place of "of". This essentially meant that JS-level officers did not come under the scope of the directive.
Two days back, the DoPT issued a corrigendum saying the word "above the rank of Joint Secretary" should be read as "of the rank of Joint Secretary".
Under Section 6 (A) of Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which provides for safeguarding senior public officials against undue and vexatious harassment by the investigating agency, CBI shall not conduct any enquiry or probe into any offence of alleged corruption against an officer of the level of JS and above.
"Since Section 6A (of DSPE Act) specifically covers officers of the central government, above the rank of Joint Secretary, the competent authority in these cases will be the Minister in charge in the Government of India.
"In such cases, intimation of refusal to grant permission along with reasons thereof, will have to be put up to the Prime Minister," the circular issued by the DoPT about 20 months back had said and asked all ministries and departments for "due adherence and strict compliance".
CBI has been for long pressing revocation of the Section 6 (A) of DSPE Act to act swiftly against a corrupt official. A move being repeatedly opposed by the DoPT, which acts as nodal government department for personnel and policy matters.
It is pertinent to mention that during a recent meeting of a Group of Ministers, led by Finance Minister P Chidambaram that is examining ways to insulate CBI from external influence in the wake of a Supreme Court judgement, the DoPT had again opposed the CBI move to scrap the said clause of the Act.