Change is the key
Change should begin at home; Change should come from within, says VV Lakshmi Narayana, former CBI Joint Director, Andhra Pradesh. Following his...
Change should begin at home; Change should come from within, says VV Lakshmi Narayana, former CBI Joint Director, Andhra Pradesh. Following his posting as the CBI Unit Head in Hyderabad in 2006, he has worked on various high-profile cases including the Satyam, Obulapuram Mining, Emaar Properties Scam and YS Jagan's case. Popularly known as JD Lakshmi Narayana, his successful handling of sensitive cases has evoked enormous amount of hero-worship, especially among the youth who are eagerly looking out for a role model to lead them on their quest for a corruption-free, opportunity-rich India of their dreams. As an IPS officer, who prefers to be addressed as a civil servant, he has been leading a life worth emulating and shares his aspiration of influencing the youth for a better India, in an exclusive interview with K Ramachandra Murthy
An engineering graduate from NIT- Warangal and an MTech from IIT - Madras, VV Lakshmi Narayana has always been a bright student. He passed Civil Services Examinations; joined the Maharashtra cadre Indian Police Service. He worked as Superintendent of Police of Nanded and in the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad before coming to Hyderabad. His seven-year stint as the CBI Unit Head was marked by several sensitive and high profile cases involving influential politicians and business men. His impartial and bold handling of the cases made him the hero of the masses. In a bid to use his name to influence the resourceful and intelligent youth to channelise their energies in a positive direction, he has been constantly visiting schools and colleges, speaking to youngsters. While he shares the various functions of CBI, debunking the popular myths; he emphasises the need to bring about a total change in the outlook, especially amongst the youth of India.
You worked in the capacity of a top official for almost seven years in Andhra Pradesh and created a sensation, especially since 2009, when you started investigating Satyam case. Would you share your experiences with us? I had worked in Andhra Pradesh not as an official, but more as a public servant (as we are better known). And during my seven-year tenure I had worked with the Central Bureau of Investigation, whose main responsibility is to file cases on corrupt persons and investigate corruption in Central Government offices and establishments. During this time, I was able to work on some important cases, was able to enlighten masses on corruption and this I consider as my good fortune.
You had also worked in Maharashtra. How do you compare the two States as far as corruption is concerned? When I was in Maharashtra for 16 years, I didn't work on the issue of corruption. But in Andhra Pradesh I worked particularly on assignments that dealt with corruption. I think corruption is a bigger problem plaguing our country, more dangerous than terrorism.
Can CBI take action suo moto or does it have to only take directives from the government? In CBI, we can take action suo moto and file a case against employees of Central Government Offices and similarly State Government offices come under the Original Jurisdiction of Anti Corruption Bureau. We can also work on the complaints from public. CBI undertakes three types of investigation. - We take suo moto action on Central government employees whom we find prima facie corrupt - Constitutional Courts refer cases to us (High Court & Supreme Court) - State Governments also assign cases to CBI, but only after the case goes to Central Government and gets the approval.
How many charge sheets can be filed on one FIR? According to a recent directive from the High Court, if an FIR has within it different cases, any number of charge sheets can be filed.
What about cases like, for example, Jagan Mohan Reddy; he is in confinement for over a year now and the final charge sheet is yet to be filed. How many days can one be kept in imprisonment? I will only talk to create awareness on law and will not comment on any case as I got relieved from my position as Joint Director on July 11. I will be reporting for my new assignment in Mumbai soon. Once the police arrest someone, they can keep the person in custody for 24 hours only, after which they need the permission of the court to extend the duration. So usually the arrested are produced in court before 24 hours and the court decides the tenure in jail or whether to give bail based on the evidences. Our responsibility is only to keep our evidences in front of the court and the prosecution does the same. Based on the evidence and the probability of the man influencing the evidences, the bail is usually given or not given.
The trial of Rajat Gupta, accused of insider trading, in New York court was completed within three months. Can't we complete the whole process at least in one year? To make the disposal of cases faster, four CBI courts each in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam have been approved. This will definitely speed up the trial procedure.
You have handled many high profile cases. Ramalinga Raju of Satyam was a corporate czar and Jaganmohan Reddy a powerful politician. Did you go through any mental stress? Did you receive any threats or political pressures? In addition to the cases you mentioned there were others like the mining cases of Bangalore that Supreme Court has directed us to take up. CBI usually had such high profile cases once in 19 years. Karnataka also was under our jurisdiction. But in the last few years number of such cases has increased, but the manpower remained the same. The amount of man hours we put in increased. So there was just work-related pressure and nothing else. I haven't received any threats. But considering the situation outside, the government decided to enhance my security. It is said in Bhagavadgita � 'Do your duty'. Every case that I have taken up was done as a job with no attachment whatsoever. It was just a professional duty for me. Stay detached and do the job. That was my motto.
You must be knowing who the corrupt politicians are and when they lecture on corruption, how do you take it? We surely need people to tell what to do, but if the one who says these things is also the one that implements them, then the effect is much more and those words have better impact on the society. There should be no gap between precept and practice.
There have been anti-corruption movements, especially by Anna Hazare. Do you think Anna's fight against corruption will have any impact? What I have seen is that Anna Hazare had a tremendous youth following. Youngsters are the future. They decide the course of the country. If the youngsters resolve not to be corrupt, if they are in good positions and decide to fight corruption, then it is definitely a good sign, the success or failure of the movement notwithstanding. Looking at the energetic youth force, one surely feels good about the enthusiasm and spirit of the youth. It is important that the youth joins the fight against corruption. The change starts from home. If the parents can bring about change in the children's outlook for better, it is a positive sign.
You have been visiting schools and colleges, what do you think of today's youth? The children of today have extremely high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) levels. When compared to 15 years back and now, their energy levels too are higher. It is important, however, that we harness the energy in right direction. They have eagerness to do something; we must show them the path to positivity. I go to colleges and schools with a similar objective. As Abdul Kalam said change has to come from within. And this is possible if we can channelise their thoughts towards change.
Do you think moral education needs more focus? Yes, definitely. When I go to schools and colleges I talk of Lal Bahadur Sastri; not many know of him. He was from a very poor family and became the Prime Minister of the country. Former President Abdul Kalam comes from a poor family. These are the people who are inspirational to our youth.
There is Anna Hazare who spoke of Lokpal and campaigned against corruption and there is Abdul Kalam who motivates the youth to seek goodness and nobleness within and has started a positive campaign 'Lead India'. Which approach, according to you, is more effective? The two approaches are important. It is important to hate corruption, recognise evil and find a way to get rid of the evil. As Vivekananda said, 'If you think you are weak within, then you will remain so.' And it is also important to identify the strength within the children and direct them towards positivity. If the youth take these two approaches positively then they will grow to be responsible citizens and good human beings.
We seem to be making laws only to break them. There is no fear of law. And it is also said that law is friendly to the rich. What is to be done to inculcate respect for law? I am always of the opinion that institutions like CBI and ACB should be closed down. We should be able to build a society that does not need such organisations. Japan may be geographically in an earthquake prone area without any resources, but they import from all over the world, manufacture and send the goods across the world. Similarly, Switzerland may not have any dairy production, but they make world' best chocolates. It is in the attitude. Countries like Egypt and India have centuries-old history and ancient civilization yet they are still developing while younger countries like Canada and Switzerland record tremendous progress. The difference is in the attitude. We must inculcate in every one the love for the country.
The major challenge before us is to keep the youth unaffected by all the distractions around them and keep them focused on their chosen path of progress. For this, self-restraint is important. Even if there is an important cricket match, one must have the self-restraint to finish the work that they have set out to do. I listen to Chaganti's (Koteswara Rao) discourse. He says, 'Mee mundu cinema channels, TV, cricket vunnayi. Mee emotions tho vallu vyaapaaram chesukuntunnaru.' Inculcating self-restraint through education and through imparting knowledge is our responsibility as media and parents
How is the relationship between CBI and government, especially in the current context of the move to grant more autonomy for CBI? During investigation, CBI obviously works with the courts. We depend on government only for finances; we approach the Department of Law on budgetary issues. Supreme Court has observed that CBI has to be given total autonomy.
This issue came up because the CBI director made changes in a report based on directive of a law minister. Do you have to accommodate the wishes of a minister? There is no such directive at least at my level. I never met any CM during my tenure in Andhra Pradesh. I used to meet the chief secretary for any clarifications.
Do you think it is a good idea to give complete autonomy to CBI, like CAG and Election Commission? Any organisation needs checks and balances and with that in place, if autonomy is given it will be great.
How do you proceed when you investigate a case? Majority of cases happening these days are economic offences. In some cases we need chartered Accountants, Income tax experts and bankers. So we set up these multi disciplinary Investigative teams. We co-opt officials from CAG and Customs etc for a certain period if need be and they will give their expertise. We use the available technology in our investigative procedure. We have certain set procedures that we follow and the rest depends on our efficiency.
How is it that in the West the cases get solved faster compared to us? In the West, in countries like the US and England, the number of cases are less. A series of cases are taken up as a single case. And everything, including the financial transactions, gets documented. Here, if four people sit together in a room and decide something, getting the required evidence gets difficult. In the West, the identity of citizens is easily established and there is better surveillance. So when something happens they get lot of inputs that help in investigation.
What is the role of the media in the current situation? I see that sensationalism is getting a front seat. If there is a rape case, it gets covered in the front page and if the rape accused is convicted then the news goes inside. There is also so much good happening in the world around which does not get enough coverage. When we constantly write about the bad happening around us, it can have an adverse effect on the psyche and spreads negativity. I think the press in Hyderabad is bad.
You do your job very sincerely, honestly and efficiently like a straight player. It may result in someone getting benefitted or harmed. How do you feel about a politician or a businessman who is put to loss because of your work? I do my job. I am not concerned with the result. As I told you I believe in Bhagavadgita which says, "Do your duty and don't worry about the result".
Have you seen the movie, 'New Delhi Times' ? Yes. I saw it.
In that film the journalist at the end says, "I have been used". Did you ever feel that you have been used? No. I never felt that way.