Last week, the Supreme Court ticked off the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for failing to fill up vacancies in the organisation. There ought to be a CBI probe into CBI’s inability to hire, the court said, after the bureau pleaded it didn’t have enough personnel to investigate the mammoth Vyapam scam.
“You don’t take any step to fill the vacancies and when we order a case for investigation, you throw up your hands. This is a reflection of your inefficiency,” the court said.
The CBI’s battle to achieve its full strength is very old. The agency admitted to the court that there has been no comprehensive revision of its cadre since 1963. Personnel from the state police forces are reluctant to join the CBI — and bureaucratic delays have ensured that there has been no direct recruitment of a DSP in the agency since 1999.
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A total 724 posts are currently vacant, almost 16% of the CBI’s sanctioned strength of 4,544. Close to 75% of these vacancies are of officers who are involved in investigations. CBI sources say that given the workload — it is currently investigating 1,241 cases, including 212 from Vyapam, and over 9,000 cases are pending in courts — even the sanctioned strength is too small.
In fact, CBI’s real workload is much more than the number of cases on paper. Most CBI cases are basically a bunch of state police FIRs that are transferred to it. Added is the burden of examining the huge number of accused that a scam case generally has. Vyapam alone has 2,800 accused, with 500 still on the run.
Behind the crisis is administrative sloth, a tussle between ‘cadre’ and ‘deputation’ officers, and the tendency to choose band-aid remedies over long-term reforms.
A portion of CBI’s strength is recruited directly, the rest is made up of state police personnel on deputation with it. According to the CBI, 60% of its personnel at the constable level is on deputation, and the percentage at the Head Constable, ASI, Inspector, DSP, Addl SP, SP, DIG and Jt Director are 20, 25, 50, 50, 10, 60, 75 and 80% respectively. All higher posts are filled entirely by officers on deputation.
In 2013, a parliamentary committee criticised this heavy dependence on deputation, noting that it led to vacancies when state police personnel were reluctant to join. On the other hand, the panel said, CBI cadre officers did not get the same career opportunities as those on deputation.
A senior officer who has spent most of his career in the CBI, however, argued that agencies such as CBI and NIA should be “90% deputation-based”. Unlike CBI cadre officers, state police personnel have the experience of a range of cases, and prove to be better investigators, the officer said.
But state police personnel, especially at the lower levels, prefer not to go to the CBI. Despite the remuneration for constables or inspectors being higher in most cases, it still can’t compensate for the hardships and expenses that moving to a bigger city entails. In some states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the pay is higher than in the CBI, and personnel from those states can’t be taken on deputation. States often delay clearances, according to the CBI.
To tackle the crisis, it was proposed that CBI recruitment rules be tweaked on the lines of the SPG, so that the Centre has a quota in all state police forces, comprising personnel whose salaries it pays, and who it can call to a central agency whenever needed. But the idea is has not been acted upon.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the Centre was simplifying the promotion procedures for cadre officers, and taking steps to add 900 SI- and Inspector-level officers to the CBI. But, Rohatgi said, given the rate at which cases were being piled on the CBI, it might soon have to open large offices in every state capital.