Observing that the possibility of the CBI being used as a ‘political instrument’ remains ever present, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi posed a question on Tuesday, “Why is that whenever there is no political overtone to a case, the agency does a good job?” Gogoi said efforts should be made to ‘delink crucial aspects’ of the CBI from the overall administrative control of the government.
Delivering the 18th annual D P Kohli memorial lecture, organised by the agency after a hiatus of two years, Gogoi said, “The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).” D P Kohli was the founder-director of the CBI.
The legal mandate of the CBI must be strengthened by having a comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence, and oversight, Gogoi said.
Listing out ‘imminent concerns’ before the agency, he said as superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946, the ‘possibility of it being used as a political instrument’ remains ever present. “I have no doubt that there is more than enough strength within the organisation to deal with any such situation,” he said.
He said many recommendations of the judiciary to reform the functioning of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have been accepted as it is by the Central government. “However, given the entrenched afflictions, the current challenge is to ascertain how to make the CBI functional as an efficient and impartial investigative agency fully motivated and guided by the objectives of service to the public at large, upholding the constitutional rights and liberty of the people, and capable of performing in increasingly complex time,'” he said.
The CJI categorised the ‘crucial concerns’ regarding the CBI under five heads — legal ambiguity, weak human resources, lack of adequate investment, accountability and political and administrative interference. Underlining legal ambiguities in the functioning of the CBI, the CJI said in order to conduct investigation into a State, consent of the State is crucial.
“Given vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy, such consent is often either denied or delayed, severely compromising the investigation,” he said. Gogoi said a patchwork of legislation governing the functioning of the CBI adversely affects inter-institutional coordination, both horizontally and vertically.
“The result of multiplicity of institutions results in an aggressive competition for scarce resources and inter-institutional ‘turf-war’,” he said. Further, to address an increasing incidence of inter-State crimes, an argument could be made for including ‘public order’ in Concurrent List, for the limited purposes of investigating such crimes. However, he cautioned that autonomy without accountability would endanger the very objectives that animated the formation of the institution. The CJI has made valid points and the government should ensure that the CBI remains a neutral and fair agency.