General Consent to CBI

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    In News

    • Recently, Maharashtra Government restored general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate cases in Maharashtra.

    Key Points

    • About: 
      • It reversed the decision of the state’s previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
    • Consequence: 
      • CBI will no longer require the permission of the state government to open investigations in the state, news agency PTI reported.

    CBI and Consent

    • Mandatory consent: 
      • CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and it must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.
    • Section 6 of The DSPE Act:
      • Consent of the State Government to exercise powers and jurisdiction.
      • Nothing contained in section 5 (titled “Extension of powers and jurisdiction of special police establishment to other areas”) shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union territory or railway area, without the consent of the Government of that State.
    • Authority different from NIA: 
      • The CBI’s position is in this respect different from that of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
      • NIA is governed by The NIA Act, 2008, and has jurisdiction all over the country.

    General Consent

    • The consent of the state government to CBI can be either:
      • Case-specific
      • General
    • General consent is normally given by states to help the CBI in the seamless investigation of cases of corruption against central government employees in their states. 
    • CBI may begin investigations taking consent as having been already given.
    • In the absence of general consent, CBI would have to apply to the state government for its consent in every individual case, and before taking even small actions.

    Withdrawal of consent

    • Historical Practice: 
      • Traditionally, almost all states have given CBI general consent. 
      • However, since 2015, several states have begun to act differently.
    • States who have withdrawn the Consent:
      • In March, 2022,  Meghalaya became the ninth state to have withdrawn consent to the CBI — after Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Mizoram. 
    • Government in the States: 
      • All these states except Mizoram and Meghalaya are ruled by the anti-BJP opposition. 
    • Maharashtra: 
      • Out of the above 9 states, Maharashtra has now reversed its decision and restored general consent.
      • Maharashtra has restored consent after the BJP returned to power in the state in alliance with the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.
    • Mizoram: 
      • The first state to withdraw consent was Mizoram in 2015. The state was ruled by the Congress at the time. 
    • Reason given for withdrawal: 
      • At the time of withdrawing consent, all states alleged that the central government was using the CBI to unfairly target the opposition.

    Implications of  withdrawal of general consent 

    • No registration of fresh cases :
      • It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving officials of the central government or a private person in the state without the consent of the state government.
    • Loss of power:
      • CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

    About Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

    • About:
      • It is the premier investigating police agency in India. 
      • It is an elite force playing a major role in preservation of values in public life and in ensuring the health of the national economy. 
      • It is also the nodal police agency in India, which coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
    • Origin:
      • It has its origin in the Special Police Establishment set up in 1941 to probe bribery and corruption during World War II.
      • It was set up by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963 after Santhanam committee recommendation.
    • Ministry:
      • It functions under the Department of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India.

    Way Ahead

    • Creation of Independent umbrella institution:
      • There is an immediate need for the creation of an independent umbrella institution, so as to bring various central agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office under one roof.
      • This body is required to be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions. 
    • Independence: 
      • The organisation should be headed by an independent and impartial authority, appointed by a committee akin to the one which appointed the CBI Director. 
      • Its head could be assisted by deputies having specialisation in different domains.
    • Relationship between the State and Central agencies:
      • There should be a harmonious relationship between the State and Central agencies and collaboration was the key, given that the goal of all those organisations was to secure justice.
    • Upgradation of knowledge:
      • There is a need for regular upgradation of knowledge, deployment of state-of-the-art technology, and international exchange programmes to learn the best practices.
      • The role, jurisdiction and legal powers of the CBI need to be clearly laid down.

    Source: IE