Differentiate between genuine decisions and criminal acts: PM

Differentiate between genuine decisions and criminal acts PMNEW DELHI: In the midst of a raging debate over probe into various high-profile cases including in the coal block allocation scam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asked CBI to tread cautiously in policy matters as “decisions which appear sensible ex-ante may ex-post turn out to be faulty” and “errors of judgment are distinguished from criminal acts”.

Speaking at the international conference on “Evolving Common Strategies to Combat Corruption and Crime” organized by CBI on its Golden Jubilee function, he said decision-making in a world of uncertainty “is a highly risky operation”.

“While actions that prima facie show malafide intent or pecuniary gain should certainly be questioned, pronouncing decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy as criminal misconduct would certainly be flawed and excessive,” the Prime Minister said.

Singh’s comment come in the backdrop of an FIR registered by CBI against former Coal Secretary P C Parakh accusing him of criminal misconduct for allegedly reversing his decision on the allocation of Talabira coal block to Hindalco.

“Policy-making is a multi-layered and complex process in the government, and will increasingly become more so, and therefore I don’t think it would be to appropriate for a police agency to sit in judgment over policy formulation, without any evidence of malafide,” he said.

The Prime Minister said lines of confidence must be clearly drawn between investigating agencies on the one hand and honest executive functionaries on the other so that public servants may not be paralyzed in taking effective decisions based on their own sound judgment and on the apprehension of an ill-informed inquiry or investigation.

“It is also important that errors of judgment are distinguished from criminal acts…Our administrative set up has to be so managed that the fear of the unknown must not lead to paralysis in decision making,” he said. On the debate over autonomy of CBI, Singh made it clear that investigation agencies are a part of the Executive and must function under its administrative supervision.

“Autonomy in investigation is already guaranteed. If anything more needs to be done to further insulate the investigative process from external interference, we must not hesitate to do it,” he said.

The Prime Minister, however, said issues of operational autonomy and the rules of oversight, supervision and control in organizational and institutional matters that are normal for public bodies of the Executive funded by public money must be clearly distinguished.

“That the debate on autonomy has acquired political overtones is indeed unfortunate. What is almost as distressing is that sensitive investigations are increasingly becoming subjects of running media commentary, often on the basis of material that is not otherwise in the public domain,” he said.

Singh said CBI was exemption from the RTI Act to ensure confidentiality in probe which is in the interest of the integrity of the ongoing investigations.

“I hope that, as responsible professionals, you will be able to reflect on this issue in the correct perspective,” he said while addressing the gathering.

Singh said economic growth also implies greater opportunity for corruption.

“While we must maintain utmost vigilance in preventing corruption and do our utmost in ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in public life, it is also important to ensure that the work of nation building goes on at a reasonably fast pace,” he said.

Singh said public debate on corruption also needs to concentrate a little more on what it would take to make our progress even faster.

“It also needs to concentrate more on the achievements that we can legitimately be proud of. We can’t be all the time just running down institutions of governance because there have been some cases of wrong doing,” he said.–PTI

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