Basic facts about CBI :
  • Saddled with issues of corruption in the department of war as well as eventually, the spread of the same to various other departments, the British government passed ‘Delhi Special Police Establishment Act’, which was again amended in 1946 to keep a check on the corruption issues involving all the employees of the Central Government.
  • The powers involved; registering an FIR under the relevant sections of the IPC and later, Prevention of Corruption Act (1988) wherein it was registered only after Preliminary Enquiry established that prima facie an offence of corruption had been committed.
  • In  1963, on the recommendations of Santhanam Committee and through a resolution passed by the Government of India, the agency acquired the name ‘Central Bureau of Investigation’ and came into formal existence.
  • CBI’s charter involved investigating cases of bribery (against central government employees), fiscal crimes (Hawala Transactions), Trans-border & interstate offences, anti-terrorism cases, collection of criminal intelligence, maintenance of crime statistics and coordinating implementation of criminal laws.
Justice Verma and Vineet Narain Case, 1997 (Jain Havala Transaction):
The directions passed by Justice Verma are following:
  1. The CVC be given a statutory status and be entrusted with responsibility to supervise the work of the CBI ensuring its efficiency and impartiality;
  2. Its head be selected by a team of the prime minister, home minister and leader of the opposition in Parliament from a panel of eminent people and the CBI director be appointed for a minimum tenure of two years by a committee headed by the CVC including the union home secretary and the secretary, personnel;
  3. A report on the activities of the CBI be submitted in three months;
  4. A nodal agency be set up for dealing with the emerging political-criminal-bureaucratic nexus;
  5. A directorate of prosecution be set up
Bureaucratic-political manipulations witnessed:
  • The CVC’s powers of superintendence over the CBI, called for by the apex court, was diluted to maintain “dual control” by government and the CVC
  • No steps were taken to follow the apex court’s directions to ensure efficiency and impartiality on the part of the CBI;
  • The Supreme Court recommendation that a document on the CBI’s functioning be submitted in three months was ignored;
  • Its direction to set up a nodal agency to deal with politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus was ignored and its direction to set up an independent directorate of prosecution was ignored.
Plaguing Issues:
“The CBI has become the state’s parrot. Only screaming, repeating the master’s voice” ~Justice R.M. Lodha
  1. Political cross-fire:
There exists no political insularity and this leads to succumbing to political pressures, from time to time. Even the control over CBI keeps shifting from one Ministry to another, leading to a void filled with instability. Much politicization and interference leads to suffocation, lending an able personnel working with full integrity and fearlessly, toothless.
  1. Autonomy:
  • Freedom to investigate crime and yet being answerable to a bipartisan committee of the Parliament will call for a full functional autonomy balanced with accountability.
  • In addition to this arrangement, a neutral mechanism to look after the overall functioning and operational issues is necessary, till an independent Lokpal is put to function.
  • Cooperation of other agencies is required for successful and high-profile trans-national investigations.
  • Funds are sanctioned by the Personnel ministry and thus, the Ministry exercises a direct control over CBI’s Financial Autonomy, which needs to be curbed and put to certain rules and restrictions on the part of government’s interference.
  1. Poor Leadership & Personnel:
  • Poor Leadership leads to a major roadblock for lack of professionalism. The Director should carefully tread the path of political manipulations and his responsibilities, stand up to the pressure and makes sure to keep himself and his team insulated by always being prepared with the written instructions passed and proof of the actions initiated from his end.
  • There needs to be put in place a proper file system tracking every detail, orders and periodical progress reports. This will help in shielding the agency from unwanted allegations and maintain high transparency, at the same time.
  • Justice Verma’s recommendations ought to be put in place and a judicious mix consisting of a permanent CBI cadre, expertise from outside, opposition’s and judiciary suggestion needs to be considered for men with integrity to get recruited. Also, a collegium comprising the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition can be constituted for the same.
  • There is a need to put up a cadre of supervisory officers quashing the uncertain system of inductions through deputation from the State Police Forces and Central Police Organisations.
Attempts to deflect serious criminal investigations undertaken by CBI, the country’s highest law enforcement agency, have to be dealt with seriously by the executive. What are the problems affecting the CBI and what are the institutional reforms needed to empower it? (200 Words)
CBI is premier investigative police agency in India; derives its legal powers from Delhi Special Police Establishment Act-1941. The investigative work of CBI is done by special police establishment division. The act vest superintendence of Special Police establishment division in central government (home ministry).
Today CBI faces following problems:
  1. Credibility crisis: With director of CBI himself meeting persons linked with scams such as 2G, coal block at his residence, the reputation of CBI has touched a new low; appears that premier investigative agency is hand to glove with accused in high profile scams.
  2. Political pressure: Last year CBI admitted that its status report on coal block allocation scam was changed under pressure from political executive; showing CBI no longer functions as truly independent body.
  3. Lack of autonomy: CBI can investigate only those cases which are referred to it by State. Successive governments have used CBI as an instrument to nail their political opponents in serious charges like corruption as well as threat to obtain supports from dissenting factions.
  4. Pendency of cases: In various CBI special courts more than 10000 cases are pending; CBI as an investigative body is unable to nail culprits effectively.
  5. CBI depends on the government for financial and administrative functions. This is a serious roadblock in CBIs functioning independently. Need reforms in this sphere as well.
Proposed institutional reforms:
  1. Ensure proper selection: Lokpal provides for appointment of Director, CBI through a collegium system which is a step in right direction.
  2. Liberate CBI from political interference: Lokpal should be allowed to decide cases which CBI takes up; CBI to report to Lokpal for investigation of such cases; Lokpal can supervise and oversee CBI.
  3. Substitute archaic DPSE act by new CBI act; clearly re-defining the role, jurisdiction and legal powers of CBI.
  4. More establishment in form of judges, prosecutors and support staff for CBI.
  5. Have a dedicated cadre for CBI.
What is the issue related to New Law for CBI?
The Union Government has turned down the recommendation of Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee to come up with a new law for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
What were the recommendations of the committee?
  • Powers given to the CBI under the DSPE Act are not adequate considering the pace of changing times as it has grown into a more dynamic agency specialising in prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes.
  • In this context, there is need for a separate statute for the CBI for making it an independent and accountable agency. 
What is the government’s position?
  • Separate statute for the CBI will necessitate amendment of Constitution which may also impinge on the federal structure of the Constitution.
  • The mandate of Parliament to enact a law would be in conflict with Entry 2 of List II of the Seventh Schedule which is in the domain of the States.
  • In this case, CBI may be conferred with powers which will impinge on all the powers of investigation of offences which are conferred on the State police. 

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