Why the CBI, like the CAG and EC, must be made an independent constitutional authority

Have you ever wondered why a Mulayam or a Mayawati is ready to extend the olive branch to UPA from time to time? Or why Karunanidhi, despite going through utter humiliation, ends up standing behind the UPA? Or how the UPA manages everyone so smoothly, except Mamata Banerjee? Well, the answer is in the central government’s massive manipulative control over the CBI, which can in turn then be used to blackmail anyone with any kind of shady dealing and existing CBI investigation; and given that most of our political leaders are corrupt, they can all be easily manipulated, minus rare exceptions like Mamata. Let’s look into some cases. Let’s start with UPA’s biggest problem, YSRC President Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy. He accused the Congress of using the CBI as a tool to harass its political opponents. Sakshi TV channel owned by Y. S. Bharati, wife of Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy, aired an hour-long program defaming Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Following that, the CBI accused Jaganmohan Reddy of having disproportionate assets and charged him under multiple sections. All government advertisements and notifications that Sakshi TV and newspaper used to get, were stopped. Similar was the case with UP’s ex CM, Mayawati. After getting a clean chit in the Taj Heritage Corridor case in 2007, Mayawati accused the UPA government of using the CBI to drag her unnecessarily in the disproportionate asset case as a revenge for her act of withdrawing support to UPA. Similarly, the Sohrabuddin case came under CBI investigation too, but it was found that the UPA government used the bureau as a tool to harass the incumbent government in Gujarat, in spite of the case having no political connections – this fact was evident from the series of sting operations conducted by various news channels. Even IPS officer Geeta Joshi alleged in August 2010 that CBI, during the investigation of the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, pressurized her to falsely implicate former Gujarat Minister Amit Shah in the case to harass the BJP government. It’s not that the mining scandal was not in the knowledge of the Centre, but it is alleged that the government used the CBI to put the Reddy brothers behind bars due to their closeness with BJP.

On the other hand, CBI is regularly manipulated to ease the cases filed on the government. CBI, in its charge-sheet, claimed that Jasbir Singh, who is supposed to have heard Tytler inciting a mob to kill Sikhs, could not be examined as he had settled in America and his whereabouts couldn’t be traced. The CBI’s claim got falsified when media telephonically located Jasbir Singh in no time. After the case was ordered to be re-investigated by the court, CBI reportedly submitted that Jasbir Singh’s testimony cannot be relied upon and asked the court to close the case. The entire incident happened to save Tytler, who has had close ties with the ruling government. Similarly, the CBI tried to save Sajjan Singh; he again has had close ties to UPA. Similarly and interestingly, despite the fact that the High Court ordered CBI to probe the Rs 5,700 crore NRHM scam, nothing much was done by the CBI until just a few months before the UP polls. All charges however were suddenly dropped and all cases against Mayawati buried, after she lost the UP polls. CBI said that it made a “grave error” while calculating assets of Mayawati. In return, the erstwhile harassed Mayawati supported UPA in Uttarakhand and also backed UPA’s presidential nominee.

What do all these cases point towards? It’s very clear that the government can use the CBI literally at will to harass anyone and to exonerate anyone it wants to please. Since the CBI is run by bureaucrats who report to the Prime Minister and given that India is India and they are all just too eager to be in the good books of the PM – however inactive and intellectually paralyzed he might be – the CBI becomes an easily manipulatable body. It’s quite contrary to what the government wanted. It wanted the CBI to be an independent and politically-neutral body. CBI was established in April, 1963. But shockingly till date, no law to govern the CBI has been drafted. And rather, it’s being governed through the unbelievably obsolete Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) act – an act that itself needs a complete overhaul – thus, but obviously, allowing complete governmental control over the bureau. All this despite the fact that CBI has already drafted the Central Bureau of Investigation Act, 2010, seeking freedom from the bureaucratic DSPE Act. In fact, in November 2006, former CBI joint director BR Lall made public his official letters (written by him to then CBI directors during 1995-96) to show how CBI’s functioning is often manipulated by politicians. Similarly, Joginder Singh, another former CBI head, has also been critical of the CBI. N. K. Singh, another former joint director of CBI, has also claimed that political interference and efforts to scuttle investigations are all pervasive. When an organization is used to such manipulations at every stage, it then tries to manipulate on its own too. Manish Bhatnagar, an RTI activist, claimed he was being harassed from the moment he filed an RTI seeking information on the CBI Director. And now the cabinet has passed a decision which makes CBI go out of the RTI ambit. Instead of making the bureau more accountable, now it is there to aid politicians go scot-free; and no one can ask for any details or challenge the CBI. The logic of sensitivity of investigations during the investigation stage is quite different from making it completely out of bounds of RTI, where the public can’t access info even after the case is over.

Given the above situation, it’s a must that the CBI should be made an independent constitutional authority so that CBI directors, like our recent Election Commissioners and CAGs, become household examples in honesty and are appreciated for their genuine efforts in removing corruption from this corruption-laden country, instead of becoming shameful people who end up abetting corruption. The Delhi High Court has already slapped notices on the Center, the CVC, and on the CBI on a petition urging them to take measures to make CBI free from various political and influential pressures. The Supreme Court, from time to time, depending on the importance of a case, does call the CBI to report directly to it in order to make it free of any influences. I strongly suggest that like in the case of the EC and CAG, if we want a corruption-free India, we must have the CBI answerable only and only to the Supreme Court of India and no one else.

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