In the backdrop of mounting corruption cases against Opposition leaders, the Parliamentary panel on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice will review the functioning of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

An important consideration in the professional review of the premier investigating agency is the issue of abysmally low conviction rates, especially in corruption cases, reportedly just about 3 per cent.

The panel, reconstituted recently, had its first meeting on Monday and decided to focus on studying the probe agency. It also decided to take a thorough look at electoral reforms, delay in appointment of judges in higher courts, and the problems in public grievance redressal mechanism.

The BJP had taken over the chairmanship of the panel from the Congress recently. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma was replaced by BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav.

In the first meeting chaired by Yadav, the Opposition MPs demanded that the panel review CBI functioning. “There was a 3 per cent decrease in conviction rates of the cases taken up by the CBI. Also, on the corruption cases handled by the agency, there are studies that show that the conviction rate is abysmally low — at around 3 per cent. This means successive governments are using it as just a tool against political opponents,” a panel member told BusinessLine on condition of anonymity.

Following a brief discussion, the members decided to take up the matter this year. “We will hold meetings with the Personnel Affairs Ministry and the CBI on this issue. Such a low conviction rate in corruption cases is not acceptable,” the member added.

While in the Opposition, the BJP had accused the Congress government of using the CBI to target its leaders. Of late, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Left have been charging the BJP government with doing the same.

Judges appointment

The panel also decided to study the long-pending issue of delay in appointment of judges in higher courts. The MPs said it needs to be checked if the courts are following the blueprint for appointments.

“The practice is that the court has to inform the government at least six months ahead of a vacancy in high courts or Supreme Court. It is the duty of the registrars of higher courts. We will have to see whether this practice is followed by the courts,” another member added. He said the panel may summon the registrars of the Supreme Court and high courts. “Both the government and the judiciary have to take up the responsibility. The panel will try to know the exact problems involved,” the member added.

Electoral reforms

The panel will continue to study the process of electoral reforms. It had met the leaders of various parties on holding simultaneous elections, poll expenditure and other such issues recently.

“We will try to submit a detailed report on electoral reforms probably in the Budget session of Parliament,” the member said.