The integrity of the CBI has been under scrutiny for a while. With the last two former bosses indicted for obstruction of justice and corruption, the Supreme Court termed it ‛a caged parrot’.
The latest episode of mud-slinging between the CBI director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana has not helped any matters. The fallout of this episode has led to blocking entry of the investigative agency into Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal by the ruling dispensations of the states which are at loggerheads with the central ruling dispensation.
It does sound incredulous! One can ask how can a state block a central investigation agency from doing its job? I believe such actions undermine the bedrock of democracy which is co-operative federalism. Another pertinent question that arises is why are they doing so. Are they afraid that their wrong doings will be found out?
Now let me weigh in my thoughts on the issues. I would like to begin by addressing the issue of the alleged wrong doings. The trigger for the extreme step was trouble landing on the doorstep of a senior TDP politician C.Ramesh who was named by a businessman Satish Sana. I have no idea where the trail of evidence will lead the investigators to; but why block the investigations unless you have something to hide?
The blockade imposed on the CBI is a deliberate obstruction of justice. It a situation of justice delayed is justice denied. Yet the question of how the state is capable of interfering in the functioning of a central agency still remains to be answered. To find the answer we have to travel back in time to trace its origins.
The Central Bureau of Investigation during its nascent period was known as the Special Police Establishment (SPE). It was set up by the Government of India in 1941. Yes, you are reading it right; there was a government which ruled the provinces and some princely states in accordance with the “Government of India Act, 1935”.
The original purpose of the organisation was to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in the war department during World War II. After the war, the Indian government wanted a central agency to investigate cases of bribery and corruption by government officials. To address the issue, the government gave this mandate to the SPE by enacting the “The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946”.
In the act which provides constitutional legality to the CBI as the SPE is called today is a clause of consent
Consent of State Government to exercise of powers and jurisdiction-
Nothing contained in section 5 (pertains to powers and jurisdiction) shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union Territory and Railway, area, without the consent of the Government of that State.
The mismanagement at the top of the CBI food-chain has allowed the states to exercise the clause of consent. In this political slug-fest between the opposition and the government the premier investigative agency has become a soft target.
But why is the CBI being targeted repeatedly and why is its credibility being undermined? I believe the root of this problem is connected to the explosion of scams which happened during the second of the UPA government. With two former CBI bosses appointed during the period currently facing charges of scuttling probes and shielding big-wigs in the political spectrum and the bureaucracy, the apex court called the CBI ‘a caged parrot’.
That one statement cast a serious doubt on the credibility of the organisation. Against this backdrop when the Guwahati High Court passed a judgement questioning the legality of the CBI further eroded the credentials of the agency. The other issue plaguing the central investigative agency was the lack of man power which became a major hindrance in the investigative process. All of this together paints a sorry picture.
So how can these ills ailing the premier investigative agency of the country be solved ?
Find out in the next installment “The CBI Crisis: The Fix”.