Autonomy of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)


    In Context 

    • Recently, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the CBI is an “autonomous body” and it has no ‘control’ over it.


    • Issue : 
      • West Bengal has challenged the CBI’s jurisdiction to register FIRs and conduct investigations in the State in myriad cases. 
      • The State had withdrawn its “general consent” to the CBI way back in 2018.
      • Recent Ordinance passed: Increased the tenure of directors of CBI & ED from two to five years (up to one year at a time).
    • Oppositions criticise the move, it will undermine the institution by sidestepping the checks and balances imposed by the Parliament.
    • Article 123 (Ordinance power but in restricting manner)
    • Earlier, SC & HC also has called the CBI a ‘caged parrot’. 
    • Centre’s response:
      • CBI operates under the DSPE Act and derives its authority to register cases under the same law not as per the Union govt.
      • It is the central vigilance commission (CVC) that has been tasked with superintendence over CBI, and the CVC Act makes it clear that there cannot be any interference with the investigations conducted by the agency.
        • Even CVC cannot interfere with the manner of investigation. Therefore, registration of cases is by an autonomous body and whatever superintendence is there, that power is with the CVC. 
          • The Union of India has no control.

    Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

    • It is the main investigation agency of the central government for cases relating to corruption and major criminal probes.
    • It has its origin in the Special Police Establishment set up in 1941 to probe bribery and corruption during World War II.
    • CBI was set up by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963 after the Santhanam committee recommendation.
    • The superintendence of CBI rests with CVC in corruption cases and with the Department of personnel and training in other matters.
    • Presently it acts as an attached office under DOPT.
    • Although DSPE Act gives legal power to CBI, CBI is not a statutory body as:
      • Word ‘CBI’ is not mentioned in the DSPE act.
    • Indian agency to coordinates investigation on behalf of Interpol Member countries.

    Functions of CBI include solving:

    • Corruption Cases
    • Economic Crimes like financial frauds, narcotics, antiques, smuggling etc.
    • Special Crimes like Terrorism, ransom for kidnapping etc.
    • The CBI was empowered to probe cases concerning any of the Central subjects enumerated in the Union List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. 

    Issues involved

    • Lack of Administrative autonomy: Currently, vacancies in CBI have to be plugged through State or other Central forces on deputation. Thus, it is susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers, as their future postings are dependent on it.
    • Lack of Financial Independency: Currently the CBI is not financially independent as administrative and financial control wrests with the Ministry of Personnel.
    • Delay in case handling: As of now, CBI faces enormous delays in concluding the investigation due to a lack of manpower and resources.
    • Deficient the workforce: It lacks an adequately qualified and competent workforce.
    • Prior permission of states: The conduct or continuance of investigation into offences committed with the territory of a state, consent of the state is required which most of the time is delayed or even denied.
    • Caged Parrot of Centre: Like the Politicisation of CBI, handmaiden to party in power.
    • Other issues: CBI powers are misused for vested gains leading to poor transparency and accountability of the agency to the people at large.

    Way Forward

    • The role, jurisdiction and legal powers of the CBI need to be clearly laid down.
      • It will give it goal clarity, role clarity, autonomy in all spheres and an image makeover as an independent autonomous statutory body.
    • 2nd ARC: New legislation should be there for CBI’s governance
    • Parliamentary standing committee (2007): Strengthen Human & financial resources, better investments and more autonomy.