Of all the acronyms that Indian public associate with investigation, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is the most common. However, if its functioning is anything to go by, the motto ‘Industry, Impartiality, Integrity’ would be one of the longest-running jokes in the history of the country.
Over the decades, the agency that was originally established to tackle corruption and serious crimes meriting attention of the Central government has been turned into a tool of political coercion and vendetta. Any political leader, business house and organisation that fell foul of the ruling establishment have learned this the hard way.
Once the era of coalitions began at the Centre, the CBI has been used extensively for arm-twisting allies and opponents. There is hardly any major party that has not borne the brunt of this. One day you find the CBI filing cases, chargesheets and talking about ‘clinching evidence’ against a political leader, but once he/she yields to the demands of the Centre the process reverts to snail’s pace.
The investigative agency’s diligent efforts played a crucial role in the success of the ‘carrot and stick’ policy that has made Lalu Prasad Yadav of RJD, Mayawati of BSP, Jayalalithaa of AIADMK and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP die-hard supporters of the Congress-led government at the Centre.
“It’s not easy to fight with the government. It has a thousand hands and can use the CBI and put one in jail,” said Mulayam recently. A disproportionate assets case against him and his son has been under investigation by the CBI since 2007 — and he has been a loyal UPA fan ever since.
The exemption to the CBI from the Right to Information (RTI) Act has made it virtually impossible for any independent verification of the legality in its manner of functioning.
Angered by the CBI allowing the PMO and law ministry to make changes to its investigation report on the infamous ‘Coalgate’ scam, the Supreme Court admonished the country’s premier investigating agency for acting shamelessly as a ‘caged parrot’ that repeats after its master — the Central government.
At least two former CBI directors have conceded in interviews that the agency was subject to political influence. Former CBI chief Joginder Singh has gone on the record to say that he was forced out after refusing to be the government’s stick in the Fodder Scam. And the current chief Ranjit Sinha, too, has admitted that autonomy does not exist for the agency.
Embarrassed by the stinging observations of the Supreme Court, the government has formed a group of ministers (GoM) to draft a law to free the caged parrot. One can’t help but be cynical considering the huge number of GoMs and EGoMs and their dismal record of delivering the goods.
An investigating agency that can function independent of political control is the need of the hour.
Unless the Aegean Stables of the CBI is not cleansed of the political filth accumulated over the decades, there is no hope for this country.
(This article was published as the editorial column in Postnoon on May 15, 2013.)