What Ails the CBI?

India Today - - UP FRONT - By R.K. Ragha­van

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

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