The way ahead for India’s “caged parrot”

May 15, 2013

When India’s top court berated the government this month for interfering in a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report, it put the spotlight on a long-standing opposition gripe that the federal law enforcement agency was being politically influenced.

“The CBI has become the state’s parrot. Only screaming, repeating the master’s voice,” Justice R.M. Lodha said on May 8, urging the government to strengthen the agency’s independence.

The CBI denied the accusations and emphasized its impartiality.

Reuters India Online spoke to various experts for their views on whether the CBI was indeed a “caged parrot” and if yes, how best to ensure it could withstand political pressure. Excerpts:

JOGINDER SINGH, former CBI chief

“Give it a constitutional status like the CAG, Election Commission. But if anybody is in apprehension that it will become a master, then have an oversight committee with a retired chief justice of India as the chairman, members of parliament from all sides – whatever number the government may fix here – to review its working every six months. As well as let its report be placed on the table of the parliament as is done in the case of CAG. The big question is will the government do or won’t it do? That is something which only the government can answer.”

KIRAN BEDI, activist and former police officer
“The short-listing is done by the department of personnel. It should be more open … Let them look at five years of total seniority, who’s worked at the CBI, who’s got the best of experience, pick up the best. So this is where they probably would have held the strings from the back door. That should be avoided.”

KARUNA NUNDY, Supreme Court lawyer
“Look, the CBI can’t be a free-floating independent agency. For it to not be the fiefdom of a top cop and his friends, it has to be accountable to either government or parliament. The coal fracas shows quite clearly though that different lines of accountability need to be explored, because the government’s administrative control over the CBI incentivises both parties to allow interference in investigation. The Supreme Court’s drawing of firm lines in the existing structure is entirely correct – as for a better structure of accountability, parliament can and should make that happen.”

AMULYA GANGULI, political analyst
“The problem is that it has been because of the declining standards of politicians and bureaucrats, the CBI has lost its professionalism … now it has become a caged parrot and there is a need to enable a return to professionalism which was what the Supreme Court ordered for the police also. It called for police reforms in 2006. The reforms should also be extended to all these institutions … One way will be to ensure a fixed term of a few years for the main incharge. Also, the process of nomination shouldn’t be left only in the hands of the government. The selection should also involve the opposition and also the judiciary so that men of integrity are chosen.”

D.R. KAARTHIKEYAN, former director of CBI
“I would say there is an absolute need for insulating all investigation agencies in the country, particularly the premier investigative agency CBI, from any external undue influence or interference … How is it done in the USA and UK? Nobody questions the impartiality, integrity, objectivity of the investigations done in USA or UK. We must try to find out all those instruments of legislation or executive orders that are issued that makes it possible for the FBI to function with objectivity and impartiality … Appointment of the director of CBI has to be done in the most transparent manner. A transparent process should be adopted, then you give him absolute authority and make him accountable to the court or by way of periodical reports to the parliament.”

PRAKASH SINGH, former BSF chief and police reforms campaigner

“CBI should be given statutory status comparable to that of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The CBI director should be appointed by a collegium comprising the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition.”

(Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra contributed to this post)

(Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan)


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the current hierarchy is too stringent and somewhat weird.
there is only one SP in a district and one MLA for a block.
a district has more than one block.
so technically SP has more authority.

but the constitution says that SP is below MLA, because SP is a civil servant and MLA is a civil representative.

the point is any changes in the hierarchy, needs changes in the constitution.

which what the govt. or the opp. would never agree upon.

moreover the damage done so far is irreparable. you can’t wash off your hands just because someone changed something on paper. corruption is deep rooted. and deep rooted wounds need time to cure, a very long time.

Posted by dipakkumardas | Report as abusive

I think any emancipation of CBI will have to take into account it’s misuse by the Govt. Prime ministers right from Indira have used CBI to raid opponents to make them fall in line. Recent raid on DMK is latest such incident and pressures on Mayawati and Mulayam are well known. What we need is a police loyal to laws than politicians and answerable perhaps to a strong Human Rights body, consisting of eminent citizens of a state etc.

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive