What Ails the CBI?
AWhat I am most concerned about is the reported falling standards of probity among CBI investigating personnel. The CBI has always had a small percentage of officers of doubtful integrity; they would periodically be identified and eased out. Unfortunately, the number of such officers is now believed to have gone up. If true, there is a need for greater supervision of those directly involved in investigation. This makes induction from the IPS at middle levels a delicate and serious exercise. Attracting the best talent and keeping out those wanting to infiltrate the CBI for their own agenda is something Verma will have to give top priority to.
As in many Central Police Organisations (CPOs), there is a grievance within the CBI that direct recruits receive stepmotherly treatment vis-a-vis IPS deputationists. This will again engage the new director’s time. There have been periodic efforts to enlarge the promotion opportunities of this class. One must understand there is only so much one can do within the constraints of existing regulations. What should complement this is a constant dialogue between senior and junior officers so that they know there is someone looking out for them.
The principal task of the new director is restoring confidence in the organisation’s ability to steer clear of politics and credibly undertake sensitive investigations. During my tenure of more than two years, I found this an absorbing but relatively easy exercise, thanks to an understanding executive that gave me space.
Mutual trust is of the essence. This calls for sobriety and levelheadedness on the part of the director, who must understand that he is part of a well-oiled democratic system that does not permit recklessness or the display of caprice. I am certain Verma will measure up to this exacting standard. new director is in place at the CBI. By all accounts, Alok Kumar Verma, a former Delhi police commissioner, is a no-nonsense and straightforward officer. He is assuming office at a time when the CBI has a disconcerting image issue. Two of Verma’s predecessors are in the dock and being probed for irregularities. This is sad, because the country’s highest investigating agency deserves some honest, if not the most efficient, leadership. I am hoping Verma will not let us down. One of his first tasks will be to handle the Supreme Court’s directive to probe his predecessor, Ranjit Sinha. The highest professionalism is called for here because whatever he does will later be subject to close judicial scrutiny.
The most damaging accusation against the CBI is that it is heavily politicised and has become so much part and parcel of the executive that it cannot proceed against those in high places within the government. This not a new charge; it has been levelled against the CBI for decades. In my view, this is a sweeping indictment that is only partially true.
The CBI registers about 1,000 cases a year, and only one per cent or less have political overtones. With an ever vigilant media and a combative Opposition, it will be suicidal for the agency to do anything even remotely unethical or under the pressure of the ruling party. To expect a hundred per cent political neutrality in all its decisions, however, is asking for the moon. In the real world, absolute objectivity is a pipe dream, and the CBI does display its own proclivities. (The flip-flop in the cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are instances where the CBI is hinted to have yielded to political pressure.) Ultimately, it is the quality of leadership that counts. This is why the appointment of a CBI chief or others in the higher echelons known for their professionalism and political neutrality matters.
One of the first tests for the new CBI director will be to probe the allegations against his predecessor Ranjit Sinha