It can­not but be po­lit­i­cally em­bar­rass­ing for the Naren­dra Mo di government that the de­ci­sion to send two squab­bling cen­tral bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) ofi­cials on leave by the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC), pre­sum­ably at the government’s be­hest, has barely passed muster in the Supreme Court.

The court may not have re­in­stated the direc­tor, Alok Verma, and the spe­cial direc­tor, Rakesh Asthana, but it has re­quested a re­tired Supreme Court judge, A.K. Pat­naik, to mon­i­tor the CVC’S probe into the al­le­ga­tions against Verma which led to his re­moval. The cen­tre and the CVC have also been ASKED to ile THEIR re­sponse to Verma’s pe­ti­tion on the steps taken against him.

Any pre­sump­tion on the government’s part, there­fore, that its in­ter­ven­tion in the CBI in what has been called by its crit­ics as a mid­night coup will mean that it will be back to busi­ness in the or­gan­i­sa­tion un­der a new direc­tor, M. Nageswara Rao, has been be­lied.

Far from be­ing def used, the con­tro­versy has only been put on the back burner with the court vir­tu­ally as­sum­ing the role of gov­ern­ing the premier in­ves­tiga­tive agency with Rao be­ing told not to take any pol­icy decisions.

For any government, the loss of con­trol over a ma­jor in­sti­tu­tion is tan­ta­mount to a loss of face. It is also a god­send to the op­po­si­tion. Till now, the lat­ter had been grop­ing for an is­sue with which to at­tack the government in the run-up to the assem­bly elec­tions In ive states.

But, now, even more than the Rafael air­craft deal which is be­ing used by the Congress to ac­cuse the government of crony cap­i­tal­ism, l’af­faire CBI will give the party a handy stick with which to beat the rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion.

The lat­ter, too, and also the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will be wor­ried about the im­pact of the court case on the mid­dle class. If it tran­spires that there is a grain of truth in the charge that THE root of THE INIGHTING At THE top of the or­gan­i­sa­tion was the foist­ing of what has been called the rul­ing party’s blue-eyed boy, Asthana, in the CBI, then the re­ac­tion of the volatile mid­dle class can­not be favourable.

THIS In­lu­en­tial Group may BE will­ing to bide its time be­fore the prom­ises of ‘vikas’ ARE Fulilled. But Any sug­ges­tion that the government was un­der­min­ing the au­ton­omy of a gen­er­ally well-re­garded in­sti­tu­tion by play­ing favourites with the ofi­cials CAN HAVE po­lit­i­cally DAM­AG­ING con­se­quences. As it is, the CBI had been called a “caged par­rot” by the Supreme Court when it was de­scribed as the “Congress Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion” when Man­mo­han Singh was the prime min­is­ter. The ex­pec­ta­tion was that the outit would BE put BACK on Its FEET By the new dis­pen­sa­tion so that it would be able to re­tain its rep­u­ta­tion for in­tegrity AND EFICIENCY. But THE lat­est turn of events sug­gests that the more things change, the more they re­main the same.

One rea­son why the CBI had be­come the last re­sort for all con­tro­ver­sial cases was the steady de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the im­par­tial­ity and com­pe­tence of the po­lice, which had long be­come a play­thing in the hands of politi­cians where bend­ing the rules were con­cerned.

If the CBI is also seen to be go­ing down the same path, the government will have to share a great deal of the blame. The chances of this hap­pen­ing are high con­sid­er­ing that the Supreme Court will deal with a pe­ti­tion by a non-government or­gan­i­sa­tion on a probe into the al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against ASTHANA AND other CBI ofi­cials.

It can­not be a mat­ter of so­lace to the government that the Supreme Court is in­creas­ingly as­sum­ing the role of an ar­biter in areas where the government and the leg­is­la­ture should have had the inal say such As DE­TER­MIN­ING THE rights of ho­mo­sex­u­als or the en­try of women into tem­ples.

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