Out of line

The Rajasthan High Court’s remark that the CBI be shut down goes beyond its scope

Written by VineetAgarwal | Published: April 20, 2012 3:17 am

The Rajasthan High Court’s remark that the CBI be shut down goes beyond its scope

The Rajasthan High Court’s remarks earlier this month that it was time to shut down the CBI,were shocking to read. These remarks were no doubt made out of frustration,with Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma,who comprised the bench,perhaps getting irritated by the delay in the criminal justice system. But the absurdity and irrelevance of such a statement brings to fore the fact that even constitutional courts are losing their gravity. The CBI is a central government organisation,which was formed before Independence to look into the cases of corruption in the procurement of provisions during World War II. It is still governed by the Delhi Police Establishment Act,1948. No court has the power to shut down an organisation governed by a statute.

Once a case is registered,either at the behest of a court or suo moto,the process of law is exactly the same as given in Criminal Procedure Code. The demarcation of duties between the investigating agencies and the courts is clear; leaving apart matters of bail,custody and search,the investigation has to be allowed without interference. Even in the aforementioned matters,the trial courts have to simply decide on the application of bail by the accused or on the request for search or custody by the investigating agency.

The single-judge bench of the Rajasthan High Court observed that,“for people facing same charge (the) CBI demands that one should be sent to judicial custody,while the other be (is) remanded to police custody”. Well,there are various rulings which clearly state that police custody is only for the purpose of collection of evidence and recovery of facts. Police custody should not be requested or granted to maintain parity among the accused,and the call for police custody remand has to be taken by the investigating officer. Attributing motives to and casting aspersions on the integrity of the investigating agency for not demanding police custody cannot be called dianoetic.

The current case is related to a petition filed by a former head constable who has been awaiting trial for 11 months. But there are cases where people are awaiting trial for years on end. While it is the job of the media to dig in cases related to celebrities,politicians and senior public servants,law-enforcing agencies should guard against being taken in. “Justice should not only be done but also seen to be done”,goes the famous adage — but when the choice is between the two,justice should not be the casualty.

The present remarks of the Rajasthan HC that the CBI should be shut down are as scandalous as the sweeping remarks of another HC,decades ago,calling the police an organised gang of criminals. Those remarks were expunged by the Supreme Court and,in all likelihood,the present remarks will be impugned no sooner than they are expunged.

The writer,a senior IPS officer formerly with the CBI,is additional commissioner of police,Mumbai. Views expressed are personal

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