It really couldn't get any worse for the government. On a day when the Congress should have been breaking out the champagne, the Supreme Court has dealt it a devastating blow with its observations on the CBI probe report into the coal scam. The CBI, the court has said, is nothing more than a
"caged parrot", a damning indictment of the premier investigative agency and the government. The court has not accepted the lame explanations by the law minister and other officials that they had only made superficial changes in the report. The court is unambiguous in saying that the very heart of the report has been tampered with. The court has articulated what many people are asking - why were officials from the coal ministry and the PMO shown a report which was supposed to be both confidential and independent? This has proved once and for all that the CBI is nothing more than one more instrument that the government uses and misuses at will. With the court's remarks, it is now clear that it was not just a comma here and a comma there that was changed. The report was changed substantially to protect the government.
Even though he claims innocence, it is odd that the report was passed around to all and sundry without the attorney general knowing anything about it. Most alarming is the conduct of the law minister. He of all people cannot have been unaware of how unethical it was to not only see but also to suggest so many changes in a probe report. The court has spoken of the need for a mechanism to make the CBI independent. This must be addressed without delay. That the agency has become totally subservient to its political masters is clear from the fact that it freely allowed them access to this report. The CBI which is almost fatally damaged now must be restored to its position as the premier investigative agency. The first step in this direction is to free it from the clutches of politicians.
While the political class may think that the CBI is handy weapon to conceal wrongdoing and attack opponents, having a compromised agency has done its image and that of politicians seeking to control it a great deal of damage. The court has been unusually harsh in its condemnation. Nothing augurs better for the polity that is so badly tarnished today with multiple scams and other allegations of impropriety and corruption than being forced to stay away from the CBI in future.