CBI Seeks Greater Independence

CBI traces its origin at the time of World War II. However it is officiated after the Santhanam committee report in 1962-64. It is the nodal agency for the investigation in case of corruption, bribery offences of varied nature and crimes. CBI draws its power from Delhi Police Establishment act, 1948. It is indeed under the control of the government. But in the guise of accountability of CBI to the executive, its autonomy is threatened. In several references to the investigation by the CBI and its inefficient working during the hearing in the coal block allocation cases, the court on observed that the CBI was acting like a “caged parrot” and asked the government if it intended brining in any law to provide the agency functional autonomy to insulate its investigation from outside interference.

Challenges which made CBI a caged parrot:

There is no law to ensure independence in the investigation by the CBI. It is the agency still under the control of the executive i.e the executive shall recommend the case which is to be investigated by the CBI. Also the superintendence and accountability of CBI is with the executive. CBI director is appointed by the executive committee containing CVC, secretaries of Home etc.

CBI director reports to secretary to Department of personnel and training, not to the minister directly. CBI needs to ask the state authority while investigating the cases under the state jurisdiction. Functional and financial autonomy is not with the CBI.  CBI is not only commanded by the CVC and dept of personnel and training but also by Lokpal with the new Lokpal act. The single doctrine which was a procedure to get prior approval from the government to investigate the case of the higher bureaucracy above the joint secretary level. However with the SC judgement in 2014 the Single Directive doctrine was quashed because of its non-compliance to the article 14 of the constitution.

Reforms suggested and actions taken:

  • All the submissions by the CBI is, to get operational autonomy. Central government sets up group of ministers to suggest the reforms to ensure the functional independence of CBI. GOI announced some of the measures in response to the SC directive:
  • CBI director should be appointed by a high level committee comprising of PM, CJI and leader of opposition. It would give a more transparent appointment without favourism and nepotism.
  • 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.

CBI director to be given the status of secretary which means reporting to the minister of DoPT directly.  Only intimation to the director general police of the state is required to carry out the investigation in the state.

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