Dependency of CBI & pendency of trial
The truth is that the Central Bureau of Investigation is not independent. It is subordinate. The question remains whether it is subordinate to the...
The truth is that the Central Bureau of Investigation is not independent. It is subordinate. The question remains whether it is subordinate to the Government of India with UPA coalition in the seat of power as of now, or to the leading ruling political party, the Cong
Hats off to the CBI! It has answered the Cabinet with its action for bringing shame on it in the apex court. Payments for bigger positions in the Railways are thoroughly exposed. Along with Ashwini Kumar, the Law Minister, Pavan Kumar Bansal, the Railway Minister, is also in the dock now; Rs 90 lakhs as part of Rs 10-crore bribe exposed the nexus between greedy relatives of permissive ministers. Though not independent, the CBI proved what it could do. The ministers might retain their berths in the Cabinet but totally lose their credibility among the people. The truth is that the Central Bureau of Investigation is not independent. It is subordinate. The question remains whether it is subordinate to the Government of India with UPA coalition in the seat of power as of now, or to the leading ruling political party, the Congress. Do the coalition partners have any say in pursuing the 'common minimum program', if any, and allow the CBI to independently probe the coal block allocation scandal? The CBI was rarely independent, and mostly dependent on political decision of the Central government whose independence should be doubted now. The sovereign power; does it remain with the Prime Minister or President of India or President of the Congress Party? One thing is, however, true: The CBI has told the truth to the apex court, saying in an affidavit that they shared the investigation report with the Law Minister, PMO and others, who are part of the government. It is great. Then where does the wrong lie? Does it lie with the government and the present-day governance? CBI Director Ranjit Sinha was frank enough when he said: "Everyone knows the truth about the autonomy and independence of India's premier investigation agency. I am part of the government. I don't head an autonomous body". Then he explained: " The CBI does not exist in isolation. We are part of a system and need to consult and take opinion on certain occasions". The scandal is not a small one. It's about preferential coal block allocations, resulting in the amassing of huge illegal wealth by those in power. The current agenda of the government is to cover up the names and gains by hook or by crook. The result is a series of consultations among top office holders in the Law Department to decide what has to be told to Supreme Court, which was sought to act like a super-CBI review authority in a government which does not govern. The episode of two affidavits with U-turn will certainly dent the credibility of the UPA-II along with its Law Minister, PMO, Attorney General and Additional Solicitor General. The CBI top officer's statement gave an impression that it was inevitable for the agency to share the investigative report with political bosses, which means that the investigation report is shared or shaped to suit the needs of the accused in the Coal Ministry with the help of the PMO and the Law Ministry. It is a shame for rule of law that the investigators have to share the information with the accused. This facility should be extended to all accused in all crimes all through the country on 'equality' terms. It was not an off-the-cuff direction but a very deliberate and serious command to the investigating agency that investigative report should not be shared with accused-infested-ministries of the UPA II. But it is a great shock that it has happened. The cover-up efforts are uncovered. The Additional Solicitor General wrote a revealing letter of resignation wherein he exposed the role of all others while he was being made a scapegoat. While investigation suffers from dependency on the accused politicians or ministers supporting the accused, the prosecution suffers severely from 'delay' or pendency of decision-making. For instance, the Bofors field gun purchase scandal had a run for more than two decades before it was finally closed in 2005 when the Delhi High Court quashed the charges against 'last accused' Hinduja Brothers. The FIR had been filed in this scam during 1987 when VP Singh was the Prime Minister, with many names figuring in the report as suspects. When the NDA was in power, the CBI charged Rajiv Gandhi, explaining how his house had a free access to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi. After spending Rs 250 crores of taxpayers' money for investigation into the Rs 64-crore Bofors scandal, the CBI finally closed all the cases after 20 years. It is an open secret how the Congress wins 'no confidence motions' very confidently. The minority government, led by the Congress, might fail several times, but it will never fall. During the regime of P V Narasimha Rao, the JMM Bribery case reached the court, but after the trial, the scandal ended with the acquittal of the former Prime Minister. Then came the CBI's investigation into Babri Masjid demolition case against 22 top leaders of the BJP, where the Delhi High Court dropped the charges against former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani in 2010, time for appeal against which was consumed, and the CBI now asks the court to condone delay and hear the appeal. The CBI helps the government by not investigating the scams as it should, or sharing the final reports with the 'accused ministry' or by fixing the leaders who oppose or who do not support the Congress government at the Centre, in disproportionate assets cases, whether Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Yadav, Mayawathi or any other strong leader. The CBI has to be there in the arsenal of the UPA to shield its ministers and attack the opposing chief ministers. The Supreme Court has removed the nakab of the 'autonomy' of the CBI. The three-member bench of Justices R M Lodha, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph said that the action of the minister and the PMO and the coal ministry has "shaken" the very foundation of an independent probe. As independence of the CBI was proved, the apex court was trying to secure the independence of the probe at least. The Supreme Court rightly questioned the legal authority of Law Minister Ashwini Kumar, the PMO and the Coal Ministry to summon the draft CBI investigation status report. This action has "shaken" the very foundation of an independent probe. A. Raja survived in ministry till the Supreme Court supervised 'independence of probe' by the CBI which could bring convincing evidence about his involvement in 2G spectrum through the PILs of Subramanian Swamy. In the present set-up, the Prime Minister gets a clean chit, in spite of constitutional principle of collective responsibility of cabinet, the role of Chidambaram will not be probed, the Law Minister will be protected despite sharing the report against the direction of the Supreme Court, and the latest, even the Railway Minister Pavan Kumar Bansal will not be asked to resign though his nephew is caught for Rs 90 lakh bribe for promoting a Railway officer. The CBI arrests four persons, but the Prime Minister protects the minister who signed the promotion order. One myth about 'independence' of the CBI is shattered, another remains. It is a reasonable doubt that there may be a vested interest in 'pendency' in criminal trial for decades which accommodate the elected leader to complete the term in office and get re-elected. The delay helps cover up the huge corruption. But the ultimate question is whether a representative government can abdicate its responsibility of guiding all executive agencies by making the CBI totally insulated from political supervision. Thus, the corruption of the political executive converts bureaucrats and the police into dictators and strikes at the roots of democracy. (The writer is Professor & Coordinator, Center for Media Law & Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)
17 Feb 2020 10:33 PM GMT