Introduction- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is India’s premier investigating agency that handles all high-profile cases. Its job is to ensure a fair and an impartial probe.
- The rule of law upholds the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.
- Moreover, CBI has played pivotal role in criminal justice deliveryas highlighted in tough cases like Satyam scam investigation, Bhanvari Devi Murder etc.
- The politicisation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been a work in progress for years and that the midnight coup was only its latest manifestation
- But this is not about two IPS officers; it is not even about the CBI or its presumed image or its subverted autonomy, It is about the future of the rule of law.
- Justice J.S. Verma stated that “it is sad that even now the CBI continues to disappoint the people whenever it deals with cases against the powerful”.
- The SC has criticized CBI as caged parrot speaking master’s voice. Further, it has been used for political gimmick and to frighten dissent. In addition to this, when it comes to politically sensitive matters like 2G etc it has failed to uphold the rule of law.
- The myriad of responsibilities over categories like Corruption & fraud, economic crimes, special crimes including terrorist attacks has overburdened it and reduced its efficiency.
Problems associated with CBI:
- 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 has been criticized from time to time from SC to LP Singh Committee to Parliamentary standing committee. For instance, The 24th report of the parliamentary standing committee (2008) was of the unanimous opinion that “the need of the hour is to strengthen the CBI in terms of legal mandate, infrastructure and resources”.
Rule of law is much more than a set of interlocking procedures and principles; it is a sense of shared confidence among citizens and other constitutional stakeholders that values of justness and fairness are not subject to the whims and fancies of the rulers of the day.
- The first reform is to ensure that CBI operates under a formal, modern legal frameworkthat has been written for a contemporary investigative agency.
- A new CBI Actshould be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision.
- The Lokpal Actalready 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 has 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 CBIand other federal investigation agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoys as he is only accountable to Parliament.
- A more efficient parliamentary oversightover the federal criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.
- To ensure that the CBI is a robust, independent and credible investigation agency, there is an urgent need to work out a much more transparent mechanism for selection of the Director and induction of officers on deputation.
- The tenure of the Director needs to be enhanced, terms of officers made sacrosanct and the CBI given reasonable financial and administrative autonomy if it has to live up to its motto of ‘Industry, Impartiality and Integrity’.