Uncage the Parrot : Case for CBI Reforms

Supreme Court of India while hearing the case of allocation of coal blocks denounced CBI as the “caged parrot” uttering ‘its master’s voice’ pointing fingers at the then UPA. Govts after Govts have misused the CBI for their political ends, be it the NDA from 1998-2004, or the UPA-I and UPA-II. Now the BJP govt is no different, CBI, the premier investigating agency of the country for the first time in its history is functioning with an acting director instead of a full-time chief.

Just two days before the outgoing chief of CBI, Anil Sinha, the MOHA created a separate post called ‘special secretary’ to move the second in seniority, one Mr.Rupak Dutta, who would most probably have assumed the chief position, to make way for Rakesh Asthana, who happens to be from Gujarat Cadre of IPS. This is definitely suspicious, to put it mildly.

We have seen this happening every time, each Government promises to establish  a strong institution of Lok Pal, reform CBI, bring other Police reforms, they make all the right noises and even go through the process of legislation.Committees and commissions are set up under experts, ministers, they even announce in the media that they accept all the recommendations which are no different from the first committee that was formed for the said reform; they even collect comments from members of the general public. But by the end of it al, the bill either lapses or doesn’t get passed, or

Of course, this article is redundant too, unless there is actually the political will to do the needful, but yet again, as an alert civil society, we would like to be hopeful and suggest the reforms that we think should be brought about.

CBI under RTI

The CBI should again be placed under the Right to Information Act. Section 8 of the Act has sufficient provisions for denial of information including those which can impede investigations

Appointment of CBI Director

The appointment of the Director of the CBI should is currently made by the committee of  the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition. The appointment should be by consensus and unanimous concurrence, mere consultation will not do.

The Director’s Tenure

A CBI Director should have a fixed tenure of three years. This cannot be extended. If a successor is not appointed in time, he will still demit office and hand over charge to the next senior-most officer. Removal can only be by impeachment.

Re-employment of CBI Director

The Director of the CBI should not be eligible for re-employment to any post under the Central or State Governments, including as a Governor or as an MP.

Autonomy for CBI

The administrative and financial control rests with the Ministry of Personnel, and thus the government can directly control CBI. More financial and functional autonomy to be given to the CBI allowing it to investigate the cases on its own. It should have an independent director of prosecution which shall work under the guidance of central vigilance commission and there should be coordinated efforts while investigating in the right earnest.

It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigation agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General 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.

Dedicated Cadre

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 these kinds of reforms that would make this government different from the past govt and not just the hollow talk of big-bang reforms. CBI is in urgent need for renovation to protect the political fabric of our country before it is too late.

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