In the wake of the Supreme Court's criticism of the government for influencing the CBI report in the coal blocks allocation scam, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has formed a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to decide the plan of action to insulate the investigating agency from external influence.
Besides Chidambaram, the GoM has External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, newly-appointed Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy as members.
According to reports, the GoM will deliberate on ways to further strengthen CBI's autonomy and safeguard it from any kind of outside interferences.
The government's move came after the Supreme Court had called the CBI "a caged parrot" that "speaks in its master's voice" after the investigating agency admitted in an affidavit that Ashwani Kumar, who quit as the Law Minister on Friday, and senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office and the coal ministry had made certain changes in the report on the allocation of coal blocks.
The apex court, which reserved its harshest words for the CBI, calling it a "caged parrot with many masters", stressed the need for the CBI to operate independently of the political establishment.
"You are not a constable or head constable. You are a premier investigating agency and must learn to work under pressure. It (probe) is not a collaborative exercise between the CBI and ministry officials ... It is a sordid saga of many masters and one parrot," it said.
The coal scam concerns the government's allocation of the nation's coal deposits to public sector entities (PSEs) and private companies.
In a draft report issued in March 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) office accused the government of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner during the period 2004-2009.
Over the Summer of 2012, the BJP lodged a complaint resulting in a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into whether the allocation of the coal blocks was in fact influenced by corruption.
The essence of the CAG's argument is that the government had the authority to allocate coal blocks by a process of competitive bidding, but chose not to.
As a result both public sector enterprises (PSEs) and private firms paid less than they might have otherwise.
In its draft report in March this year, the CAG estimated that the "windfall gain" to the allocattees was Rs. 10,673.03 billion.
The CAG Final Report tabled in Parliament put the figure at Rs. 1,855.91 billion.
On August 27, 2012, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh read a statement in Parliament rebutting the CAG's report both in its reading of the law and the alleged cost of the government's policies.