On October 24, the CBI was comprehensively betrayed by its leadership. Director Alok Verma filed an FIR against his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, for taking a bribe. Asthana went public with his laundry list of allegations against his boss. The rest is history. These developments are no surprise. Policemen have always been their worst enemies and like cannibals, they thrive on eating flesh and sipping the blood of their institutions. It is a shame that Verma and Asthana had to be summoned by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
Verma hardly deserved the job and certainly had no leadership qualities. Neither could he discipline his errant deputy nor did he have the grace to resign when he lost the confidence of the government. Verma was not alone to suffer insubordination. Every security setup has mavericks, corrupts and traitors but their leaders do not make a mockery of themselves while handling delinquents.
The consultation process that selects a CBI director needs an urgent revisit. Currently, a committee of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of India picks the director, going mostly by seniority.
As a result, you land up with Verma who had no background of working in the CBI or knowing his officers. The irony is that the triumvirate selects the director but the government controls his staffing, expenditure and course of investigations, leaving him no choice but to serve its political interests. The notion that a fixed tenure of two years ensures independent functioning is also a hogwash. It is the institution that needs to be overhauled to withstand extraneous pressures. If you select a wrong person, the institution has no relief till he is around. A director should be retained if he delivers and dumped when he proves ineffective.
The furore created over the handling of CBI’s crisis and its misuse by the NDA has been patently dishonest. The most juvenile reaction came from Congress workers who staged demonstrations before CBI offices across the country. Such protests have no parallel in any civilised nation. Congress must remember that Mrs Indira Gandhi rampantly misused the CBI for her political ends. Since then, the CBI has never enjoyed autonomy nor it will do so in future.
The Supreme Court’s meddling made it even worse for the CBI to piece together its tattered integrity. Instead of refusing to entertain theatrics from the likes of Shanti Bhushan and Mallikarjun Kharge, it foisted a retired SC judge to supervise CVC’s inquiry against Verma, prevented Nageshwar Rao from taking any policy decision and asked him to justify all actions he took as interim director. It conveniently forgot how it was left free to manage the unprecedented crisis when five of its judges publicly flaunted dissent against their Chief Justice. In CBI’s case also, the SC should have avoided micromanaging its internal problems and allowed it to auto-correct its mistakes. Over-vigilantism and lack of trust can destroy any institution.