Centre must ensure CBI's autonomy; release 'caged parrot': Madras HC
The Madras High Court on Tuesday said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should be made an autonomous body reporting only to the Prime Minister. The HC directed the Centre to bring a separate Act giving statutory status with more power and jurisdiction to CBI at the earliest. Currently, the CBI is constituted per an executive notification under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
While reading out directions to enhance the efficacy of the investigating agency, the HC said, "This order is an attempt to release the 'Caged Parrot (CBI)'." The term "caged parrot" was first used by the Supreme Court in 2013 to describe the CBI during the hearing of the coal allocation case. "The CBI is a caged parrot speaking his master's voice," SC had observed.
The 2013 observations were made after the then-CBI Director told the SC that a former Law Minister meddled with the CBI's statement in the coal allocation case. Back then, the BJP—the Opposition at the time—had accused the CBI of being controlled by the then-UPA government.
The allegations that the CBI has been a tool of ruling parties to harass the Opposition are not new. Over the years, the investigating agency has also faced sharp criticism for pressing ahead with probes against Opposition leaders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a vocal BJP critic, has also called the CBI a "Conspiracy Bureau of Investigation controlled by the Prime Minister."
The HC's order came while hearing a petition filed by Ramanathapuram District Pathikkapattor Sangam seeking a CBI probe into the chit fund scam. However, the court declined to refer the case to the CBI, observing that the agency is often unable to conduct proper probes citing lack of resources and manpower. Many cases investigated by CBI have ended up in acquittal, it noted.
Rather than referring cases to the CBI, the HC said, "The time has come to look into the problems faced by the CBI." On the lack of manpower, it directed the Centre to "take a decision on the comprehensive proposal for cadre review and restructuring of CBI within a period of one month." It ordered that the CBI should be equipped with modern facilities.
The CBI Director shall be given Secretary-level powers. The CBI shall be made more independent like the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. A separate budgetary allocation shall be made for the CBI. The CBI should be made independent with functional autonomy without the government's administrative control. The agency should recruit Cyber Forensic and Financial Audit experts.
Currently, the CBI reports to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under the Prime Minister's Office. Its director is chosen by a three-member panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, and the Leader of the Opposition.