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Supreme Court orders Government to work out autonomy for the CBI .. but ..




The CBI could be one of the most powerful organizations against the high levels of corruption that we see. Okay, pipe dream over.
For decades now, the CBI has been one of the organizations that has been the most controlled by the Government in power, and this is something that has been recognized as well. 17 years ago, in the investigations into the Jain hawala case, the Supreme Court laid down a series of orders granting more autonomy to the CBI. However, the power of the CBI is too strong for the Government. You have an agency that gets its financial support from the Government, which picks up its personnel from the police services, which requires permission from the Government for prosecutions against Government servants, and which also reports into a Government minister. And when you have CBI Directors willing to take orders from the Government (which includes previous Directors as well as the current Director), you have an agency that is a perfect agency representing the Government. So, if you leave aside the current Bansal bribery case (where the CBI Direction seems to have already announced that Mr. Bansal is not guilty), in most other cases that involve politicians, especially of importance to the Government, the record of the CBI is pretty bad. And it is not likely to get better unless the CBI gets the required level of independence, primarily in terms of finances and personnel.
The recent agitation for the Lokpal envisaged that the CBI would report into the Lokpal, and since nobody expects the Lokpal mechanism to come into existence, it is back to ensuring some sort of independence for the CBI. Over the years, a number of parliamentary committees have deliberated over the expected powers of the CBI and how to make it independent. However, as you might expect, the Government would not unshackle the CBI. It needs an organization that can investigate and prosecute as per the directions given to it, and hence relinquishing control over the CBI would be very hard for the Government to contemplate.
Yet, there is a glimmer of hope. The recent case regarding the interference by the Congress Government into the reports of the CBI in the coalgate scandal seems to have raised precisely the same issues; and the concept of Government interference in the CBI has come in the forefront. As a result, even while the Supreme Court has still not given a judgment, the observations and warnings that have come out are very critical of the Government and already have claimed the scalp of the Law Minister. But, the observations regarding the independence of the CBI are biting, also because the Government has been given a timetable. In an act that the Government or the Congress party has not been able to condemn as judicial interference, the top court asked the Government to ensure the independence of the CBI by the next hearing (July 10) or the court will take action. Now, you would expect that the Government would be able to manage the Supreme Court, but in this charged environment, it is quite possible that if not action is taken, the court could order something that would hit the Government and the Congress parties (actually, all political parties) hard.
So, the Government has setup a committee which will work towards resolving the functional independence of the CBI in a way that they will try to retain some sort of control over the CBI, while telling the court that this is work in progress, that Parliament is seized of the matter and all the other delaying tactics that the Government usually employs. Does one really expect the corrupt Government to create a truly independent CBI that could block the money making tactics of political parties ? One expects that other parties will join in the effort to do some white-washing of trying to create an independent CBI, while trying to retain some sort of control. The scene ahead promises to be interesting.




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