Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

What is General Consent accorded to the CBI?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CBI

Mains level: Read the attached story

Kerala has decided to withdraw the general consent accorded to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to operate in the state voluntarily.

Try answering this:

Q. Why the CBI is called as “a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”? Critically comment.

General Consent

  • Unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by its own NIA Act and has jurisdiction across the country, the CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  • This makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting an investigation in that state.
  • There are two kinds of consent: case-specific and general.
  • Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state only after that state government gives its consent.

When is Consent needed?

  • General consent is normally given to help the CBI seamlessly conduct its investigation into cases of corruption against central government employees in the concerned state. Almost all states have given such consent.
  • Otherwise, the CBI would require consent in every case.
  • For example, if it wanted to investigate a bribery charge against a Western Railway clerk in Mumbai, it would have to apply for consent with the Maharashtra government before registering a case against him.

What does withdrawal mean?

  • It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving a central government official or a private person stationed in these two states without getting case-specific consent.
  • Withdrawal of consent simply means that CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

Under what provision has general consent been withdrawn?

  • Section 6 of the Act says nothing contained in Section 5 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 or Railway, area, without the consent of the Government of that State.
  • In exercise of the power conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the government can withdraw the general consent to exercise the powers and jurisdiction.

Does that mean that the CBI can no longer probe any case in the two states?

  • The CBI would still have the power to investigate old cases registered when general consent existed.
  • Also, cases registered anywhere else in the country, but involving people stationed in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.
  • There is ambiguity on whether the agency can carry out a search in either of the two states in connection with an old case without the consent of the state government.

Why such a move by the States?

  • If a state government believes that the ruling party’s ministers or members could be targeted by CBI on orders of the Centre, and that withdrawal of general consent would protect them.
  • This is a debatable political assumption.
  • CBI could still register cases in Delhi which would require some part of the offence being connected with Delhi and still arrest and prosecute ministers or MPs.
  • The only people it will protect are small central government employees.

Legal Remedies for CBI

  • The CBI can always get a search warrant from a local court in the state and conduct searches.
  • In case the search requires a surprise element, there is CrPC Section 166, which allows a police officer of one jurisdiction to ask an officer of another to carry out searches on his behalf.
  • And if the first officer feels that the searches by the latter may lead to loss of evidence, the section allows the first officer to conduct searches himself after giving notice to the latter.

Back2Basics: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • Origins of CBI can be traced back to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) set up in 1941 in order to cases of bribery and corruption in War & Supply Department of India during World War II.
  • The need of a Central Government agency to investigate cases of bribery and corruption was felt even after the end of World War II.
  • So, DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act, 1946 was brought that gave legal power of investigating cases to CBI.
  • CBI is not a statutory body as it is not established by an Act of the Parliament.
  • CBI investigates cases related to economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases.
  • CBI comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • CBI is exempted from Right to Information (RTI) Act similar to the National Investigating Agency (NIA), National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), etc.

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