Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday questioned the efficacy of the CBI in “politically sensitive” cases and said it reflects “a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations” and “governing politics”.
He suggested giving CBI a statutory status equivalent to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
CJI Gogoi also suggested that “public order” must be made part of the Concurrent List for investigation of interstate crimes. Public order is currently the exclusive domain of state governments.
Delivering the D P Kohli Memorial Lecture, organised by the CBI at Vigyan Bhavan, CJI Gogoi said “a patchwork of legislation” — a reference to the CVC and the Lokpal — behind CBI and “multiplicity of agencies” had led to “inter-institutional turf war”.
“Why is that whenever there are no political overtones to the case, the CBI does a good job,” CJI Gogoi asked while talking about political and administrative interference in the working of the agency.
He said: “…in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny. Equally true is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently. Such instances reflect systemic issues and indicate a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture, and governing politics.”
The CJI spoke about the guidelines issued by the apex court in the Vineet Narain judgment to protect the CBI’s integrity. “However, given that the superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the possibility of it being used as a political instrument remains ever present.”
CJI Gogoi laid stress on the agency maintaining high reputation in public perception. “Any gap between public perception and the quality of institutional performance would adversely impact the governance of the nation, which we can ill afford,” he said.
The CJI suggested that crucial aspects of the CBI must be de-linked from the administrative control of the government. “The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG)…. Further, to address an increasing incidence of interstate crimes, an argument could be made for including ‘public order’ in concurrent list, for the limited purposes of investigating such crimes,” the CJI Gogoi said.
The CJI indicated that there was “constitutional and legal ambiguity surrounding” the CBI and this “severely comprises both the integrity and efficacy” of the institution. He raised the issue of states not giving consent to CBI to probe cases due to “vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy”.
He said, “Additionally, a patchwork of legislation governing the functioning of CBI adversely affects inter-institutional coordination, both horizontally and vertically. The result of multiplicity of institutions results in an aggressive competition for scarce resources and inter-institutional ‘turf-war’. These issues arise in large measure from lack of a comprehensive statute protecting the agency’s autonomy.”
The CJI lamented that government institutions were no longer attracting the best talents and the lion’s share is being taken away by the private sector. He said the CBI needs to get the best of talent, improve its training, and exercise autonomy along with accountability.
Delivering the vote of thanks, CBI Additional Director Praveen Sinha said the CJI’s words have pushed the agency to introspect its role and functioning.
The function was attended by chiefs of all central agencies —- CVC Sharad Kumar, senior government bureaucrats, Army chief Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa.