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The need to reform the CBI

What is the Central Bureau of Investigation?

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is India’s premier investigating agency that handles all high-profile criminal cases, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases.

The CBI serves as a criminal investigation and prosecution body. It has played a pivotal role in criminal justice delivery as highlighted in tough cases, however during the time of October 2018, there has been an issue regarding its credibility.

The job is to ensure a fair and an impartial probe. But during October 2018, two of the top officials of the agency have been reported to be involved in a major feud. This has led the Government of India to intervene in order to restore the institutional integrity and credibility of CBI.

“Caged Parrot”

Political intervention has been an inevitable part of the agency, as corruption and biased decisions are severe issues which are found to be present in government departments. The matter was a huge concern even when the Supreme Court criticized CBI for being a caged parrot and speaking in master’s voice.

The credibility under suspicion

CBI has been accused of becoming ‘handmaiden’ to the party in power; as a result, high profile cases are not treated seriously. Since CBI is run by central police officials on deputation hence chances of getting influenced by the government were visible in the hope of better future postings.

The Scenario

CBI officials are not protected by legislation; instead, the functions are based merely on a government resolution that draws its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which makes the CBI the premier investigative arm of the Union government. This works as a limitation for the agency, and the fact is that higher officials need to have more protection as high profile individuals are not easy to deal with.

The overburden of cases of Corruption & fraud, economic crimes, special crimes including terrorist attacks reduced efficiency.

Delayed Case Solving: For instance in Aarushi Murder Case even though the investigations underwent for over a decade there was no concrete conclusion.

The History of Recommendations

Modern Legal Framework- Always suggested

The first reform is to provide CBI with a formal, modern legal framework that has been written for a contemporary investigative agency. There have been various reports for recommending a reform in CBI and some of them are as follow-

§  The Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2007 suggested that a new law should be enacted for the working of the CBI.

§  Parliamentary standing committee in 2007 recommended that a separate act should be promulgated in tune with requirement with time to ensure credibility and impartiality

§  The 19th and 24th reports of the parliamentary standing committees (2007 and 2008) recommended that the need of the hour is to strengthen the CBI in terms of the legal mandate, infrastructure and resources.

§  P Singh committee has recommended the enactment of comprehensive central legislation for the self-sufficient statutory charter of duties and functions.

The immediate need to change- Power to investigate freely
It is high time that the CBI is vested with the required legal mandate and is given pan-India jurisdiction. It must have inherent powers to investigate corruption cases against officers of All India Services irrespective of the assignments they are holding or the state they are serving in.

The Financial Autonomy

Besides appointing the head of the CBI through collegium, as recommended by the Lokpal Act, the government must ensure financial autonomy for the outfit. Some experts have even suggested that the CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) and the Election Commission (EC).  It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigative agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoy as he is only accountable to Parliament.

The New CBI Act
new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision. The new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference.

Freedom to select their own staff
One of the demands that have been before Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers.

Under Parliament
more efficient parliamentary oversight over the federal criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.
The CBI is an important part of the government services provided to the citizen for creating the faith factor. The corruption has its own cost on the economy which is often neglected and ignored.  Therefore, for creating a corruption free nation first the agency which looks after for such a server issue should be corruption free.