Autonomy of CBI

Autonomy of CBI
A state is judged by the institutions it is made of. The preamble of the Indian constitution clearly reflects the idea of the state and society it envisaged to conceive. In one of its directive principles of state policy, it is clearly illustrated that the state shall strive to promote justice in every sphere of its domination. The people look up to the state to foster a society that is governed by the rule of law. Special Police Establishment and DSPE A major reason for the fall of the British rule was the rampant corruption in its activities. India’s first agency to investigate corruption, the Special Police Establishment, was set up in 1941 – six years before independence from British rule – to probe bribery and corruption in the country during World War II. That agency was part of India’s War Department. After the end of the war, there was a continued need for a central governmental agency to investigate bribery and corruption by central-government employees and hence the department was transferred to the Home Department by the 1946 Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. DSPE's scope was enlarged to cover all departments of the Government of India. Its jurisdiction extended to the Union Territories and could be further extended to the states with the consent of the state governments involved. DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated 1.4.1963. CBI and its dependence on the state and central governments Santhanam committee on the prevention of corruption recommended its establishment. CBI thus is neither a statutory nor a constitutional body. It is the main investigating agency of the central government. It also provides assistance to the central vigilance commission and Lokpal. The agency is dependent on the home ministry for staffing since many of its investigators come from the Indian Police Service. The agency depends on the law ministry for lawyers and also lacks functional autonomy to some extent. The CBI, run by IPS officers on deputation, is also susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers because they are dependent on the Central government for future postings. Another great constraint on the CBI is its dependence on State governments for invoking its authority to investigate cases in a State, even when such investigation targets a Central government employee. Since police is a State subject under the Constitution, and the CBI acts as per the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which makes it a police agency, the CBI needs the consent of the State government in question before it can make its presence in that State. This is a cumbersome procedure and has led to some ridiculous situations. CBI’s role in handling scams and other big cases According to the Supreme Court of India, the CBI has been criticized for being a "caged parrot speaking in its master's voice", due to its excessive political interference irrespective of which party happened to be in power at the time. The landmark judgment in Vineet Narain v. Union of India in 1997 laid out several steps to secure the autonomy of CBI. Says Mr. Narain: “Limited autonomy was granted. Still, the administrative and financial control wrests with the Ministry of Personnel, and thus the government can directly control CBI.” The agency has been criticized for its mishandling of several scams. It has also been criticized for dragging its feet investigating prominent politicians, such as P. V. Narasimha Rao, Jayalalithaa, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mayawati, and Mulayam Singh Yadav; this tactic leads to their acquittal or non-prosecution. The real problem for the CBI lies in its charter of duties. These are not protected by legislation. Instead, its functions are based merely on a government resolution that draws its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 which makes the CBI the premier investigative arm of the Union government. Bofors Scandal of the 1980s and 1990s, Hawala Scandal of 1991 and criminal cases such as Priyadarshani Mattoo case and Sohrabuddin case have dented the image of CBI very badly. In the Indian coal allocation scam discovered in 2014, the then CBI director submitted an affidavit in the court clearly stating the political interventions in the case. Some form of autonomy has been granted by the Supreme Court of India to CBI when it held that CBI can prosecute senior bureaucrats without the central government's permission. Section 6A of DSPE Act, 1946 granted protection to the joint secretary and above officers from facing even a preliminary inquiry by the CBI in corruption cases, was declared constitutionally invalid by the Supreme Court. Possible reforms The first reform should be ensuring that CBI operates under a formal, modern legal framework that has been written for a contemporary investigative agency. A new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision. The Lokpal Act already calls for a three-member committee made up of the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to select the Director. However, not enough has been done to administratively protect CBI from political interference. For this to happen, the new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference. One of the demands that have been before Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers. The CBI did recruit some officers in the past to its cadre, but that effort has gone nowhere, and all senior posts in the CBI are now held by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigation agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) enjoys—he is only accountable to Parliament. A more efficient parliamentary oversight over the federal, criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight. The CBI is not really popular among the youth who are looking for Central government employment through the Union Public Service Commission examination route, other than those appearing for the All India Services, including the Indian Police Service. This makes a case for a fresh look at the service conditions for direct recruitment to the CBI. A comprehensive act of Parliament setting out the autonomy, powers, etc. is the first step towards improving the CBI’s autonomy. Give the agency enough assurance that it can function without fear and it need not be worried about the consequences of speaking the truth.
References:- https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/view-its-time-to-reform-the-cbi/articleshow/66338206.cms https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/only-autonomy-can-redeem-the-cbi-s-image/cid/1672497 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Bureau_of_Investigation https://www.firstpost.com/india/how-to-rebuild-the-cbi-6010871.html https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/dont-interfere-with-cbi-autonomy-sc/articleshow/67446701.cms https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/is-cbi-the-handmaiden-of-the-government/article19272931.ece https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/breaking-the-cage-cbi-alok-verma-rakesh-asthana-supreme-court-5424278/

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