The CBI Crisis: The Fix

It is fair to say that politics has taken centre stage in the whole murky CBI saga. During the power struggle between CBI director and CBI special director there were reports emerging which jeopardized the operations of the intelligence agencies. This prompted the government to suspend both the officers until their names were cleared of any misconduct.

With reports insinuating that the phone lines of the NSA, Mr. Ajit Doval were being tapped unauthorized; allegations if proven would be a massive security breach. Further with names of R&AW and IB officials cropping up in the news there are reports doing the rounds stating that the developments might have compromised their operations. This situation has allowed the CBI to become a punching bag of the Opposition to play politics with.

Earlier in my post The CBI Crisis: The Mess I did flag off certain issues to be addressed. Three to be precise. With the CBI taking a lot of flak from the Supreme Court recently it definitely questions the credibility of India’s premier investigative agency. Along with it I mentioned a court judgement questioning its legal validity. Such a judgement jeopardises investigations and might let culprits off the hook. Last but not the least I hinted at operational procedure being a hindrance in their working efficiency.

Since I addressed the issue of credibility in the last post, today I would air my views on the other two issues before putting out what I think is an effective solution to the crisis.

When the legality of an investigative agency is questioned it undermines the mandate and reputation of the organisation. It harms the work done by the body and questions its judicial locus standi. But that is what happened on November 6, 2013 at the Guwahati High Court. The court ruled that the CBI was not a legal entity.

Here is what the court said:

“…while we decline to hold and declare that the DSPE Act, 1946, is not a valid piece of legislation, we do hold that the CBI is neither an organ nor a part of the DSPE and the CBI cannot be treated as a ‘police force’ constituted under the DSPE Act, 1946. We hereby also set aside and quash the impugned resolution, dated 01.04.1963, whereby CBI has been constituted…”

This meant that any investigation carried out the CBI was invalid. It would be a major spoke in the wheel of justice. The matter was resolved immediately when the then CJI of November 9, 2013 granted a stay on the judgement. Till date the CBI’s existence is dependent on that stay order.

As that sword of Damocles still hangs on, the other issue plaguing is the ineffective nature of working of the CBI. I think it was a couple of years ago I was reading an editorial column about the vacancies in the CBI in a newspaper that I stumbled upon its style of functioning.

Officers in the CBI are mostly on deputation from the different state police departments and cases are handed over to officers who do not have connections to the place where the crime was committed. This is to ensure there is no political interference and bias in an investigation. According to me, this is just a stop-gap solution. It does not solve the issue of vacancies at the CBI but also lessens the strength of the local state police force. Thus it is a double whammy.

The Government of India should have started looking for a solution to the troubles of the CBI when the judgement was passed in November 2013. But that has not happened. You could say that the CBI is functioning on ventilator. To make the the country’s premier investigative agency a more robust organisation I feel the government should bring in a legislation as it did for the NIA and model it on the lines of the FBI of America.

The FBI is as we know is the USA’s premier federal law enforcement agency and its jurisdiction comes under the US Department of Justice. It has a clear mandate over violations of more than 200 federal crimes. The selection criteria and procedure too is independent from the local police force. Back home that is not the case.

The CBI in India reports to the Department of Personnel and Training. I believe the jurisdiction of the CBI should be transferred to the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry. Building on it the force of the CBI should be independent of the Indian Police Service. Unless we change the organisational and functional style of the CBI and appointing people as political favours in the higher echelons of the agency, the CBI will continue to be a ‘caged parrot’.

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