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.”