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The CBI – controversy over the level of control of the Government as in Coalgate..




The model that a lot of people are quoting right now when there is talk of the CBI and the level of Government control (or interference) is that of the American Government and the FBI. There is a lot of admiration of the FBI, and especially the way it seems to be independent of Government control. However, this level of independence is something that is not technically very different in the Indian context as well; what this actually means is that the FBI Director reports to an individual who in turn reports into the President of the US. In India, the CBI is controlled by a Government Department (the Department of Personnel and Training in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension of the Union Government of India). So, why is the FBI seen as independent, not an agency that can be easily controlled by the US Government, and where media disclosures about any attempt at influence can be the depth knell for the politician concerned.
However, it is a sign of the lack of maturity of the Indian context where the CBI, instead of being a powerful instrument to cut corruption, is called by different derogatory names such as the Congress Bureau of Investigation, or the Corrupt Bureau of Investigation (and where these names seem to be well deserved). If you look at the past track record of the Bureau, there is a total lack of confidence in the investigations done by the Bureau. Part of the blame has to fall on the senior personnel of the agency who would rather curry favors with the Government of the day rather than object to such policies. Past important cases that were political in nature and where one can see significant problems in the role of the CBI could be seen starting from the Bofors case, various defense deals, the 2G case, the investigations against various state politicians of amassing wealth through corrupt means, and right now, the specific cases of the Coal scam as well as the investigations against Jagdish Tytler (one of the prime accused in the 1984 riots against the Sikh community).
The case against Jagdish Tytler is one of the examples of the problems with the CBI. The 1984 riots were a crime against humanity, and the lack of any major investigations into the role of prominent people in instigating these riots are equally a blot on the justice system in India. It is not for lack of evidence or witnesses, and as the Sessions court pointed out, the CBI was derelict in not taking statements from the witnesses (it was the role of the court to determine whether the testimony of the witnesses is to be relied upon or not). These were scathing remarks against the CBI, which has attempted to get this case closed twice before, but has now been rebuffed again.
Another case was that of the 2G case, where the Supreme Court was literally ordering the CBI, and where the level of political interference was such that the court had ordered the CBI to not have any contact with the Government on its state of progress on the investigations, treating all such investigations as a Special Investigation team. If there were no fears of Government investigation, why would the court have placed such an order ? And there were no feeling of guilt on behalf of the Government, in fact the DMK was angry at the Government for not getting the CBI to back off the investigations.
The Coalgate is another such case. The policy of allotment of coal blocks was opaque, with no defined reasons for why allotment was done to one of the requesting agencies, and not to the others. When there is opaqueness in policy, it is pretty easy to believe that there is a lot of discretion, and a lot of corruption; preliminary investigations seems to substantiate such speculations. A number of those allotted such blocks have not made any progress in developing blocks, many of them are related to politicians, and so on. So, when this case was handed over to the CBI, there were fears that the CBI will not do any real progress, and there will be a lot of Government interference (honest investigation might puncture the honest and efficient claims of the Prime Minister, since he was the Minister responsible, having the coal ministry with himself for a large chunk of the time is under investigation).
And now what do we hear ? We hear that the Law Minister of the Government called for the CBI head the CBI report on the case, and asked for some changes. This when the court had already asked the CBI to report if there was any vetting by the Government; it is the sheer arrogance of the power of the Government that they do not even care that their interference is apparent even on very little investigation. One hopes that the court will take note of these reports and ask for the CBI Director to file a honest statement on whether the CBI report was vetted; and like the Court ordered independence of the selection and reporting of the CVC, this would be the time to make a similar change so that independence of the CBI can be achieved (organizational reporting can be still be with the Government, but operational reporting and controlling would be done by the CVC).




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