AUTONOMY TO THE CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION : by Shantonu Sen
The U P A Government remained obdurate in the face of demands of the major opposition parties that the Central Bureau of Investigation ( C B I ) should be autonomous. Now that the NDA is in power it is expected by many that the autonomy of the C B I is in the offing. They are in error. The CBI cannot be autonomous. It cannot have the powers of the C A G or the E C It cannot have any constitutional status . It will be what it is, a police organization subordinate to the civil authority and through it to the Government of the day Some times the Supreme Court or the High Court may, in a particular investigation or enquiry, require the C B I to report stages of investigation only to it and the C B I will dutifully file reports in a sealed cover to the court in question . Such instances will be few and far between. In every case after the final sealed cover report is filed and some times before , the superior civil authority of the C B I, Ministry of Personnel Pensions and Grievances, will be in the know of all the investigation done and through it to the Government . Court supervision has never stopped the Government being privy to what is exactly C B I ‘s finding or from receiving instructions from the Government or proceeding with the enquiry/investigation bearing in mind those instructions.
The demand of autonomy for the C B I cannot be conceded for the simple reason that its a non starter. The organization is by law required to discharge its responsibilities as specified in the laws passed by the parliament or the State legislature and assented to by the President or the Governor as the case may be. The flexibility available to the C B I officers while working under thsee specified law is therefore limited. It becomes extortionate and criminal when the moral fibre of the investigator and his superior breaks free of the constraint imposed by the laws and rules that control all investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code ( Code). The Code decided the flexibility available to the C B I officer . The corrupt behavior of a C B I officer is subject to laws of the land . A corrupt behavior is open to investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act . Its also controlled by the Conduct Rules of the Government and any violation of the Rules must lead to administrative action like warning, censure, reduction in rank and even dismissal. In other words, there is in built autonomy to C B I officers in the discharge of their investigation responsibilities. As long they act within the law and are not tempted by any type of illicit gain each CBI officer has complete autonomy in investigation and prosecution..
When the demand for autonomy of the C B I is raised in various forums it is to ensure that CBI officers are not subjected to any influence or pressure from the Government at any stage of their work either during investigation or during prosecution. This freedom to act independent of extraneous influence, to refuse to carry out incorrect or illegal directions of superior officers is available to all CBI officers. If some CBI officers are perceived to act as ‘caged parrot’ the fault lies with them individually. The fault is in the training it is in the lust for post retirement benefits which the government can bestow, it is greed for lucre , it is for recognition not regular from Government. They are corrupt officers and are not satisfied with the recognition by way of a meritorious service medal or the higher distinguished service medal. They lust for a post retirement five year or a ten year government sinecure which has power , authority and glamour and for assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. . Ever since 1963 when C B I was created largesse has been distributed by the government to selected superior officers of the CBI. It is this temptation that persuades even the best officers to expect to be benefited by extension of service, re employment, gubernatorial postings and more. They then function as caged parrots and their subordinates then have toe their line. This behavior worsens when the CBI officer is also corrupt . Fortunately, a majority of C B I officers are not so tempted. As yet.
C B I officers can always act strictly in accordance with law. To allow this to happen no temptation should be dangled before serving C B I officers or officers who have served C B I . Laws prohibit accepting financial benefits from private persons both during service and after retirement . Laws should also prevent any largesse from Government . . No C B I officer should be eligible for any post retirement jobs where the President is the appointing authority. Also every C B I officer ,irrespective of his rank should be assessed for his integrity periodically and also without warning.. This assessment should be .meaningful. This exercise should include his/her dependent and/ or those who have been dependent on him/her. CBI officers deal with the future of the service life of public and government servant both highly placed and otherwise. They must prove as long as it is required of them that they have it in them those virtues that qualify them to do what they are assigned to do. If they, at the end of their service life, emerge worthy of trust let them be rewarded . For instance, allow them draw as pension their last pay and allowances for . five years more. Let them also enjoy the facility of retaining government accommodation or in lieu receive house rent for five years These are illustrations only. But no post retirement sinecures. No corruption winked at . Only then ignominious appellations like caged parrots, Congress Bureau of Investigation, Corrupt Bureau of Investigation etc for CBI could end. Demand of autonomy to C B I to ensure investigation free from influence is a red herrings.