PERSPECTIVE | NEW LAW FOR CBI
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.
- It is also important to lay down safeguards to ensure objectivity and impartiality in its functioning.
- Parliamentary committee in its report has said that the existing law – Delhi Special Police Establishment Act governing the federal probe agency has many limitations.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agencyof India.
- It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation is not a statutory or constitutional body but derives its roots from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
- It was originally set up in 1965 to investigate bribery and governmental corruption.
- It also receives expanded jurisdiction to investigate breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organized crime, or international cases.
- The CBI has attracted numerous controversies and criticismsdue to various reports of irregular practises, excessive political influence, and a poor conviction rate.
- CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
- CBI is India's officially designated single point of contactfor liaison with the Interpol.
Composition of CBI
- There shall be a director of CBI who heads the department. The union government shall appoint the Director based on the recommendation report given by a three-member committee (Prime minister, leader of the opposition party in Lok Sabha, and CJI of India).
- There are joint directors, deputy inspector general, superintendent of police.
- There is a Directorate of Prosecution, whose work is to look after the cases registered under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act. The Directorate of Prosecution shall not be a person below the rank of Joint Secretary to the union government.
- The union government also appoints persons for the rank of SP and above to work as subordinate officers with the Commissioners and Director.
Functions of CBI
- Its main task is to investigate violent crimes through an effective system and high technology.
- It helps in dealing with and combating cybercrimes and social platform crimes.
- It is there to help, supervise, and support police organizations in investigating high suspension cases.
- It investigates cases of corruption, bribery, misconduct, and misbehavior of union government employees. It works under the superintendence of the Central Vigilance Commission.
- It investigates serious crimes committed by high-level criminals affecting national and international cooperation or national peace.
- CBI may also take up a case at the State government’s request if the matter relates to public importance.
- It takes up cases on the direction of High Courts and Supreme Court as well. But in case of direction by the court, consent of the concerned state is not required.
- The CBI in India acts as an agency or National Central Bureau of the Interpol (an international organisation that helps police forces of different states to investigate and solve crimes).
- But before conducting any investigation or inquiry, the CBI is supposed to take prior permission of the Central government if the offence is committed by the joint secretary or any person of above rank.
- It plays a role in protecting human rights, the environment and those criminals who are causing damage to the country.
- Anti-Corruption Division
- Economic Offences Division
- Special Crimes Division
- Directorate of Prosecution.
- Administration Division
- Policy & Coordination
- Central Forensic Science Laboratory
Criticism of CBI
- In the year 2013 Supreme Court called CBI a “caged parrot” as there was clear evidence for the coal blocks allocation case which hints that the government was using the agency for their own benefits.
- Thus, the Supreme Court criticized the agency making the remark and stated that the CBI must know how to cope up with the government pressure and must know how to take a stand for itself.
- The CBI cannot step into an investigation without the consent of state governments and the centre cannot extend the agency's jurisdiction to any state without permission either.
- Over the years, these have gradually subordinated CBI to the federal government.
- The opposition feels unfairly targeted by the ruling party that uses CBI.
- Every political party wants to accuse the political rival in power of misusing the CBI,” former CBI director Shanker said. “And, the cycle continues.”
Delay in Investigation
- Referring to the pendency of over 1,000 cases with the CBI, 66 of them for more than five years, a parliamentary committee said delayed justice is no justice at all.
- CBI is not under the purview of Right to Information Act, 2005. Thus, it has not been made accountable to the public.
- CBI is grappling with infrastructure deficit.
- Shortfall in budget allocation "adversely affects" the agency's ability to invest in training, research, equipment and other support structures.
Massive shortage of personnel
- The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law, and Justice said that a total of 1,709 posts are vacant in the CBI, against its sanctioned strength of 7,295.
- This leads to an inevitable conclusion that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is facing a massive shortage of personnel".
- This may increase pendency, hamper the quality of investigations and ultimately reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency.
Withdrawal of general consent
- The CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act of 1946, which requires the investigative agency to obtain the consent of state governments before it can investigate a crime in a particular state.
- Withdrawal of general consent to the CBI is becoming a potent political tool.
- The government’s prior permission is must before intiating any enquiry, inquiry or investigation against a public servant on charges of corruption. This gives restricted powers to CBI as it fails to combat corruption at higher levels of public service.
Charter not protected by legislation
- The real problem for the CBI lies in its charter of duties. These are not protected by legislation.
- Instead, its functions are based merely on a government resolution that draws its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which makes the CBI the premier investigative arm of the Union government.
- Two things are very essential for such a specialized agency to work- investigating skills and impartiality.
- CBI is said to be not very efficient and is called partial when it comes to dealing with crimes committed by higher ranked officers or politicians.
Allegations against Special Director and Director of CBI
- P. Singh, former CBI director, was accused of corruption and bribery by the central investigating agency and was in the headlines because of his links with controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
- The former Special Director Rakesh Asthana was also accused of corruption in 2017.
Bansal family suicide case
- Former Director General of foreign affairs B. K. Bansal and his family committed suicide in 2016 and it was found in their suicide notes that they accused some Central Bureau Investigation officials of threatening them.
Ranjit Sinha’s Case
- The then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha was accused of being involved in a corruption case.
- The Supreme Court asked CBI special director ML Sharma to look into the case but the investigation against Sinha is yet to be completed.
- CBI was also accused of favouring former ruling party Congress against its opposition BJP.
- The CBI during the investigation of Sohrabuddin case in Gujarat pressurised Geeta Johri who was also investigating the same case to falsely implicate former Gujarat Minister Amit Shah.
Suggestions to reform the CBI
Under the purview of CVC
- The Supreme Court had suggested in the Jain hawala case that the CBI should be placed under the supervision of the central vigilance commission.
High level Governing Body
- A high level governing board should be set up for the CBI in which, apart from the prime minister and union home minister, four-five chief ministers of states may be appointed, by turn, to give broad guide-lines and keep a watch over the working of the CBI.
- This will instill a sense of confidence in the states and help in building consensus in favour of a Central law for the CBI.
- The CBI should be bifurcated into an anti-corruption body and a national crime bureau.
- The latter should be entrusted with all matters pertaining to criminal offences with national and inter-national ramifications. The present CBI, with its charter confined to anti-corruption cases, should continue to be under the Ministry of Personnel while the national crime bureau should be placed under the MHA.
Under the purview of RTI
- CBI should be brought fully under the Right to Information law, with a stipulation that no information pertaining to any on-going investigation can be made available, but that all information pertaining to cases which were withdrawn, or cases which were closed, or were dismissed by the court would be made available to the people.
- Such a social audit will go a long way in making both these institutions fully accountable.
Parliamentary Committee Recommendation
- Parliamentary Committee recommended that the CBI should make efforts to reduce its dependence on deputation and strive to recruit permanent staff at least upto the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Annual Social Audit
- An annual social audit of the working of CBI should be carried out by ten reputed, knowledgeable persons with background of law, justice, public affairs and administration and the audit report should be placed before the parliament
- The selection of the director of CBI should be made by a committee presided over by the prime minister and comprise the home minister, the Lok Sabha speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman, Lokpal, when appointed, and leaders of opposition in both the houses.
No plum posting after retirement
- After retirement, the director of CBI should be made ineligible for any appointment by the Central and state governments.
2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) Report
- It is of the view that a new law should be enacted to govern the working of the CBI.
New CBI Act
- A new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision.
- The new CBI Act must substitute the archaic DSPE Act.
- The role, jurisdiction and legal powers of the CBI need to be clearly laid down.
- The new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference.
Own Dedicated Cadre
- In line with international best practices, CBI needs to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers.
- The Director of CBI should monitor the progress made in filling up of vacancies on a quarterly basis and take necessary measures to ensure that the organisation is sufficiently staffed.
- CBI should reduce its dependence on deputationists and strive to recruit permanent staff in the ranks of inspector of police and deputy superintendent of police.
Granting Autonomy just like CAG
- It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigative agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoys—he is only accountable to Parliament.
- A more efficient parliamentary oversight over CBI could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.
Centrality of the institution of Lokpal
- The services of the CBI would be placed at the disposal of the Lokpal for investigation of cases, which the latter decides to take up.
- The CBI will report not to the government of the day, but to the Lokpal for investigation into such cases, over which the Lokpal will have the power to oversee and supervise, in the manner the Supreme Court has done in some cases of controversial nature.
Annual Report of CBI in public Domain
- The details of cases registered with the CBI, the progress made in their investigation, and the final outcome are not available in the public domain.
- In this age of transparency, every public authority should strive to proactively disclose the data available with it or held by it in public domain to the extent possible.
- The annual report of the CBI is should be made accessible to the general public.
Case Management System
- CBI needs to maintain a case management system, which would be a centralised database containing details of cases registered with it and the progress made at their disposal.
- The case management system should also enable tracking of the progress of each individual case and should be, by and large, accessible to the general public.
Providing access to information will not only empower the citizens but will also make the functioning of the CBI more accountable, responsible, efficient, and transparent.
- The present situation requires a fresh consideration of not only the extrinsic factors but also the intrinsic factors to be ameliorated so that the sanctity, credibility, sustainability and durability of the agency is maintained.
- What is at stake is more than just the image and credibility of the CBI. India’s image as a country committed to the rule of law itself needs to be refurbished nationally and internationally.