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Maharashtra decision to withdraw general consent: Move will prevent prompt action in graft cases, say CBI officials

The Maharashtra government had on Wednesday issued a notification stating that the ‘general consent’ to the CBI given by the state to the agency in 1989 was being withdrawn. Henceforth, the CBI will need to seek permission from the state government.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: October 24, 2020 1:01:32 pm
trp case, trp scam, cbi trp scam, maharashtra govt cbi trp scam, up govt trp scam, maharashtra news, cbi newsWhen contacted, a CBI spokesperson said that the agency did not want to comment on the issue. (File)

The state government’s withdrawal of ‘general consent’ to the CBI to investigate cases in Maharashtra would prevent the central agency from taking prompt action on corruption complaints against central government employees, CBI officials told The Indian Express.

CBI officials, who spoke to The Indian Express but did not wish to be named, said the move — earlier taken by Opposition-ruled Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan — would impact the day-to-day functioning of the agency “as taking consent for every case from the state would be a cumbersome process”.

“Annually in a state like Maharashtra we register at a maximum nearly 150 cases. These include cases of corruption by central government employees or frauds committed at public sector units or government banks and special crimes. We need two notifications — from the state and Centre — to go ahead in any case. General consent helped the process move smoothly. Getting consent is a complicated procedure and it will impact the ‘josh’ (enthusiasm) of officials to pursue cases. This will give wrongdoing a boost as deterrence will reduce,” an official said.

Also read | Withdrawal of general consent to CBI within ambit of law: Legal experts

Another official said the Maharashtra government had “misplaced fears” about the erosion of the state’s powers in Centre-state relations, as law and order is a state subject and the CBI cannot simply walk in and take over any case.

Either the state government asks the CBI to take over a case and the Government of India agrees, or a case is handed over to the agency on the intervention of the High Court or Supreme Court.

“Based on media reports, it appears that the state government was worried about the TRP case being taken over. However, we cannot just take over any case. The petitioner (Arnab Goswami) has already approached the Bombay High Court for the same and if the court sees merit in transferring the case to the CBI, we will have to take it up,” the official said.

When contacted, a CBI spokesperson said that the agency did not want to comment on the issue.

The Maharashtra government had on Wednesday issued a notification stating that the ‘general consent’ to the CBI given by the state to the agency in 1989 was being withdrawn. Henceforth, the CBI will need to seek permission from the state government before registering any FIR in the state.

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday said the move was prompted by the CBI taking over the TRP scam case registered in Lucknow. Deshmukh had said since the Mumbai Police too had been investigating a TRP scam and have arrested nine persons till now and named five channels including Republic as prima facie trying to boost their TRP’s, there were fears that the CBI would want to take over the case.

Editorial | States withdrawing general consent should worry the CBI — onus is on the agency, not its masters, to ensure its credibility

Earlier the CBI had taken over the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case after the Bihar Police registered an FIR in the case.

The Mumbai Police had been investigating the suicide of the actor that took place at his Bandra residence on June 14.

Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had approached the Supreme Court seeking that the TRP case being probed by the Mumbai Police be transferred to the CBI.

The SC asked him to approach the Bombay High Court that is currently hearing the matter and will decide on the issue.

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