HC attempts to free 'caged parrot' CBI, suggests special Act giving more powers to it

The agency should have autonomy like the Comptroller and Auditor General and Election Commission, so that it is free from the government’s control or any political interference, the court said
CBI Headquarters (File Photo | PTI)
CBI Headquarters (File Photo | PTI)

MADURAI: Nearly eight years after the CBI was dubbed 'a caged parrot speaking in its master's voice' by the Supreme Court in the Coalgate scam, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has made an attempt to 'release' the agency.

In an order passed on Tuesday, a Division Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi told the Centre to consider enacting a separate Act giving statutory status to the CBI, with more powers and jurisdiction, at the earliest. The agency should have autonomy like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and Election Commission of India, so that it is free from the government’s control or any political interference, the court said. It should be given powers like those of a Secretary to the government and should directly report to the Minister or Prime Minister without going through the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the court added.

Manpower and resources

The 32-page order authored by Justice Kirubakaran began by highlighting the clamour that exists for the country’s premier investigating agency. But the agency is dragging its feet on existing investigations and refusing to take up fresh ones on the ground that resources and manpower are inadequate, the court observed. “The facilities in the premier agency have to be enhanced, so that it could be equated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States of America and Scotland Yard of the United Kingdom,” the judges said. Hence, a separate budgetary allocation should be made for the CBI, they directed.

The order also contained extracts of a report submitted by the agency pursuant to the court’s queries regarding the manpower and its success rate in the past two decades. The data revealed that the agency had 5,796 personnel in various ranks in 2000 and the same has been increased only upto 7,273 by December 2020. Moreover, no new appointments have been made after 2015 till 2020, the report added. Also, nearly 50 percent of the 1,024 inspectors in the CBI have been deputed only from the state police force, the court observed and advised the agency to recruit their own officials instead of depending upon deputation from other forces.

Conviction rate

Likewise, the agency recorded a 70 per cent conviction rate in 2001 but except for minor fluctuations, the figure is more or less the same even after 20 years. However, the total number of cases registered by the CBI in 2000 was 1,105 whereas it has come down substantially with the agency registering only 710 cases in 2019 and just 574 cases between January and November 2020.

Directions for revamp

Though the CBI had sent a proposal to the central government in September 2020 for a comprehensive cadre review and restructuring of the agency, it is still pending, the bench noted. It directed the government to take a decision on the proposal within a month. The court also called for a detailed proposal from the CBI for increasing manpower and recruiting cyber forensic and financial audit experts etc within six weeks with further directions to the Union government to pass orders on the same within three months.

Since the central agency had blamed huge pendency in Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) as one of the reasons for delay in concluding investigations, the judges also directed the central government to enhance the infrastructural facilities in CFSL, Ghaziabad.

The directions were issued when the Bench was hearing a petition seeking transfer of investigation into a Rs 300 crore worth chit fund scam from the Ramanathapuram Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to the CBI. The case would be listed after six weeks for filing of compliance report.

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