CBI is dead, long live CBI

It is not conflicts at the top that define the bureau, but its investigators and staff.

Written by Meeran Chadha Borwankar | Updated: October 26, 2018 10:51:34 am
The CBI has a history of politicisation. But things have never been this bad The CBI has a history of politicisation. But things have never been this bad

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) shall survive. A few bad leaders at the top can damage the agency for some time but having worked in the bureau, I can say with certainty that it is made of stronger stuff than what the media thinks. I would like to share some of the reasons for my strong belief, despite the current atmosphere of announcing the demise of the professional investigator and the agency.

The foundations of the CBI are strong. Officers have to pass through tough UPSC-conducted exams for their induction and the basic training in investigation is both intense and intensive. They form the core of the agency and have a deep involvement in their cases with justifiable pride in their investigating skills. Shukla ji, who worked with me in the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Mumbai, was a quintessential investigator — low profile, thorough in his knowledge of the law and procedure. He and his like will not let the CBI down.

My superintendent in the EOW, Virendra from the income tax department, was dreaded the most by economic offenders. Mild mannered, harmless to look at, he could smell an economic offence from a kilometre away. He will withstand pressure of any magnitude to keep the agency afloat. He and his colleagues from different services have enriched the bureau with their expertise and taken it to a level far higher than if it had been an agency consisting only of police officers. They will defend the bureau against onslaughts from different quarters.

Then there are the likes of my personal assistant in Delhi. Realising that our midnight anti-corruption raid against a powerful bureaucrat had no female presence and when asked to accompany the raiding team, she did so without batting an eye. Today, she is depressed at the state of affairs. But I am sure, she would stand up and be counted with all her might, a symbol of the administrative staff of the bureau that excels in it work and dedication. They will not allow the CBI to sink despite the efforts of a few at the top.

How can I forget my prosecutor babu, who literally burnt the late night oil to study the investigation papers and give studied opinions on points of law? His hand-holding of the investigating officer and the dedication of the investigators and law officers will see the bureau through its bad times. This combination of skilled investigation by CBI officers and the thorough knowledge of its law officers has earned the agency a higher conviction rate than any other police organisation in the country. These buddies will sail through the rough times, I have no doubt.

The forensic wing of the agency with its deep knowledge, research and state-of-the-art equipment has been the backbone of different kinds of investigation by the CBI, be it cyber crime or following the trail of shell companies. Rightfully proud of their skills and their presentation of scientific evidence in courts, the forensic experts, used to pressures of all kinds, will emerge stronger after the current turmoil.

So, dear citizens, rest assured the core of the Central Bureau of Investigation remains strong. Yes, the internecine wars at the top can damage the bureau but having worked in it, I see it emerging stronger. The basic framework is intact but some elements are indeed eroded. That has happened in the past too, sometimes in public view but mostly in quiet rooms of the CBI where pressures from mighty politicians or the top leadership has been brought to bypass the investigator, misdirect or even kill a case. As is well-known, this mostly happens in cases involving bigwigs. Since each case passes through different filters and hierarchies, in most cases the integrity of investigation has been maintained. The watchful higher judiciary has also stepped in many a time and has come down heavily when the agency seems to be losing steam.

Instead of enjoying the “CBI versus CBI” war bulletins of the last week, it is in our interest to strengthen the fundamentals of the bureau. The selection procedure of officers on deputation to the bureau needs a definite improvement. The selection committee for the appointment of the chief of the CBI needs to do its homework assiduously. More officers from different services and with diverse backgrounds need to be inducted. Training of officers on the law and procedure needs further strengthening. The forensic wing needs more infrastructure. The speedy trial of cases by having more judges and judicial infrastructure need to be pursued in earnest. Let’s concentrate on these instead of gleefully watching TV and reading in the print media about the fights among the mighty. It is they who have feet of clay, not the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The writer retired as director general, Bureau of Police Research and Development

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