The issues arising today in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are because there is no proper legal framework governing the organisation, and the nature of its powers and duties are not properly defined, retired Supreme Court judge J Chelameswar said on Friday.
Speaking at an event organised by the All India Professionals’ Congress, Justice Chelameswar said that for 70 years no one in the country has been sure of the legal structure of the organisation. “It is not a constitutional or a statutory body. There is just one provision in the Delhi Special Police Establishment which is the basis for this agency being given almost tantalising powers,” he said.
“Every time people in politics are in Opposition, (they) accuse the CBI to be a tool used by the ruling party. And this tamasha has continued for 70 years. People demand a CBI probe by saying that they do not trust the local police, but it (CBI) is not a divine force. A halo is created around it. Eventually, what is happening there today is because there is no legal framework to it, the nature of its powers and duties are not properly defined,” he said.
Justice Chelameswar said that all political parties, including the hosts of the event where he was speaking — the Indian National Congress — are responsible for the current state of affairs in CBI. “They could have created a proper statutory framework for CBI. But, everyone wants such a nebulous state of affairs so that it is easy to manipulate. The operating systems of all political parties are the same.”
In a conversation with Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, Justice Chelameswar said now that he has attended an event organised by the Congress there will be much speculation that he is joining politics, but he wants to assure the people that he will never contest elections.
Recalling the press conference he and three other senior Supreme Court judges held in January this year, Justice Chelameswar said they spoke of India’s democracy being in danger. “When institutions which are supposed to be institutions created for safeguarding the democratic system of this government are faltering, is democracy not in danger?”
He also said that while many people criticised him and saw the press conference as part of a political conspiracy and personal agenda, “If one remains silent, one can only complain later about the ‘CBI being destroyed and RBI being destroyed’”.
On the high pendency of cases, Justice Chelameswar said while the judiciary is blamed, the issue of low budgetary allocation to the judiciary also needs to be addressed. “I have never heard a leader promise a new court before elections. Courts are low priority for all political parties,” he said.