[Sansad TV] Perspective: New Law for CBI



  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has recommended that there is a need to enact a new law and define the status, functions and powers of the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).

Issues highlighted by the committee

  • Impartial working: It emphasized about laying down safeguards to ensure objectivity and impartiality in its functioning.
  • Working at the behest of states: Highlighting withdrawal of general consent for CBI probe by many states, parliamentary committee in its report has said that the existing law – Delhi Special Police Establishment Act governing the federal probe agency has many limitations.
  • Filling up vacancies: The Parliamentary panel also said that every effort should be made to fill up vacancies in CBI at the earliest. 1,709 posts are vacant in the CBI against its sanctioned strength of 7,295.
  • Lack of permanent staff: CBI needs to reduce its dependence on deputations and strive to recruit permanent staff in the ranks of inspector of police and deputy superintendent of police.
  • No data on cases registered: Details of cases registered with the CBI, the progress made in their investigation and the final outcome are not available in public domain.

All these issues can be easily sorted by a proper and separate legislation (since CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act).


CBI: A quick backgrounder

  • The CBI traces its origins to the Delhi Special Police Establishment, a Central Government Police force, which was set up in 1941 by the Government of India.
  • It then aimed to investigate bribery and corruption in transactions within the War and Supply Department of India.
  • It then had its headquarters in Lahore.
  • 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.
  • The DSPE acquired its popular current name, CBI, through a Home Ministry resolution dated in 1963.

Mandate of the CBI

  • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the GoI.
  • It is not a statutory body; it derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • Its important role is to prevent corruption and maintain integrity in administration.
  • It works under the supervision of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) in matters pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • The CBI is also India’s official representative with the INTERPOL.

Cases to investigate

  • Cases connected to infringement of economic and fiscal laws
  • Crimes of a serious nature that have national and international ramifications
  • Coordination with the activities of the various state police forces and anti-corruption agencies.
  • It can also take up any case of public importance and investigate it
  • Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.

Why need CBI when we have state police?

  • Cases of national importance: If the case is of national importance or has inter-state ramifications, it is necessary for a central agency like the CBI to take charge.
  • Special powers and expertise: Another reason could be that the state police might not have the required expertise, resources, or independence to handle the case.
  • Credible policing: In such cases, the CBI, being an independent investigating agency, can bring more credibility and transparency to the investigation.
  • Fair investigation: Some cases may involve high-ranking government officials, politicians, or influential individuals, and referring the case to the CBI can help avoid conflicts of interest and ensure a fair investigation.

Issues with CBI

  • Caged parrot: The Supreme Court has criticised the CBI by calling it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”.
  • Political interference: It has often been used by the government of the day to cover up wrongdoing, keep coalition allies in line and political opponents at bay.
  • Investigation delay: It has been accused of enormous delays in concluding investigations due to political inertia.
  • Loss of Credibility: CBI has been criticised for its mismanagement of several cases involving prominent politicians and mishandling of several sensitive cases like the Bofors scandal, the Bhopal gas tragedy.
  • Lack of Accountability: CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act, thus, lacking public accountability.
  • Acute shortage of personnel: A major cause of the shortfall is the government’s sheer mismanagement of CBI’s workforce.
  • Limited Powers: The powers and jurisdiction of members of the CBI for investigation are subject to the consent of the State Govt., thus limiting the extent of investigation by CBI.
  • Restricted Access: Prior approval of Central Government to conduct inquiry or investigation on the employees of the Central Government is a big obstacle in combating corruption at higher levels of bureaucracy.

Way Forward

  • Need for autonomy:   As long as the government of the day has the power to transfer and post officials of its choice in the CBI, the investigating agency will not enjoy autonomy and will be unable to investigate cases freely.
  • Selection of director/ Officers: 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 and induction of officers on deputation.
  • Lokpal scrutiny: The Lokpal Act already calls for a three-member committee made up of the PM, the leader of the opposition and the CJI to select the director.
  • Bifurcation of Cadre: CBI should be bifurcated into an Anti-Corruption Body and a National Crime Bureau.
  • Develop its own cadre: One of the demands that have been before the Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers.
  • Annual social audit should be carried out by ten reputed, knowledgeable persons with backgrounds in law, justice, public affairs and administration and the audit report should be placed before the parliament.

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