[Editorial] CBI – Challenges facing and the way forward

Quick revision mind map

Context: The recent comment that CJI made on the independence of the CBI

  • The CJI recently commented on the utter subordination of investigative agencies to the executive and its disastrous consequences for the cause of justice.

Major issues affecting the CBI

Issues affecting the system:

  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Lack of sufficient manpower
  • Inhuman conditions, especially at the lowest rung
  • Lack of modern equipment
  • Questionable methods of procuring evidence
  • Officers failing to abide by the rule book
  • The lack of accountability of erring officers

Issues that lead to delays in trials:

  • Lack of public prosecutors and standing counsels
  • Seeking adjournments
  • Arraying hundreds of witnesses and filing voluminous documents in pending trials
  • Undue imprisonment of undertrials
  • Change in priorities with the change in the political executive
  • Cherry-picking of the evidence
  • Repeated transfers of officers leading to a change in the direction of the investigation

These issues often lead to the acquittal of the guilty and incarceration of the innocent. This severely affects the public trust in the system.

Social legitimacy:

  • The police and investigative agencies may have de-facto legitimacy, but as institutions, they are yet to gain social legitimacy.

The image of the institution of the police:

  • Police should work impartially and focus on crime prevention.
  • They should also work in cooperation with the public to ensure law and order.
  • People hesitate to approach the police in times of despair.
  • The CBI possessed immense trust in the public in its initial phase.
  • But with the passage of time, like every other institution of repute, the CBI has also come under deep public scrutiny.
  • Its actions and inactions have raised questions regarding its credibility, in some cases.

The image of the institution of police is regrettably tarnished by allegations of corruption, police excesses, lack of impartiality and close nexus with the political class.

Some considerations from CJI’s comment

Need for an independent umbrella institution:

  • The need of the hour is the creation of an independent and autonomous investigative agency.
  • There is an immediate requirement for the creation of an independent umbrella institution, so as to bring various agencies like the CBI, SFIO, and ED under one roof.
  • This body is required to be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions.
  • Such a law will also lead to much-needed legislative oversight.

Stand up to unethical pressures:

  • The CJI called upon investigators to stand up to unethical pressures in order not to betray the trust reposed in them by the public.

Leadership:

  • The CBI now has some of the brightest Indian Police Service officers in its higher echelons.
  • However, it is not enough if the middle-rung supervisors alone are straightforward.

Strong court:

  • There is a need for a strong Supreme Court and equally strong High Courts to keep our investigators on the straight and narrow path.

Mandatory tenure:

  • Earlier, CBI Directors were changed at will.
  • Mandatory tenure was meant to insulate the CBI Director from the caprice of the executive.
  • This process has since been expanded to include the CJI in the selection panel.

Need of the hour

Weed out the dishonest:

  • There is a need to focus on weeding out the dishonest among officers and rewarding those who have shown and proven themselves to be honest and professionally innovative.

Strong and virtuous leader:

  • There needs to be a strong and virtuous leader who will not only be honest but also stick his neck out to protect his deputies if and when confronted by an unscrupulous political heavyweight.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. If the CBI is to thread to the path of virtue, it should have a strong leader with a distinct belief in law and ethics. Examine. (250 Words, 15 Marks)
Referred Sources

TH

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