John Lobo, who celebrated his 95th birthday earlier this month, was a legend in the CBI. The agency’s first director, D P Kohli, was even a greater legend as was his successor, Fredrick Arul of the Tamil Nadu cadre. These three directors are still remembered in the CBI with respect and some awe. They were known to be not only upright, but also fair and just, with a strong penchant for the truth.
Modern day Pontius Pilates cynically or wickedly not only ask themselves and others “what is truth”, but tinker with that commodity for narrow selfish ends. The last CBI Director earned sufficient notoriety to drown a cat. But many others compromised their good name and reputation for messes of pottage.
It is not fair and just to blame only the political class for the rapid politicisation of the premier investigative agencies. It is not the politicians alone who are to blame. The proverbial second hand that is needed to clap is willingly provided by ambitious officers of my erstwhile service. They belong to the ever-expanding legion of officers who eye post-retirement sinecures which parties in power routinely dole out to those who oblige them in their quest for power.
Not that all post-retirement appointments are made on the basis of favours rendered. There are some good people whose services are invaluable and no government can afford to lose. But there are many, many more who should have been gracefully forgotten. These are the officers who dread retirement and hence, are willing to compromise. Their tribe is increasing and that is the problem.
Parties in power have succeeded in politicising the bureaucracy and the police through the use or misuse of the power of appointments and transfers. Ambitious and calculating officers routinely approach politicians to secure positions of power or pelf, often both. Corruption and injustice has risen exponentially because of this now well-established practice.
Cases like the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) romance with the Sadhvi or the CBI changing its opinion on the terrorist credentials of Ishrat Jahan would not have occurred if the investigative agencies were outside political control. When the future careers of investigating officers are in the hands of the political class, the former opt not to resist efforts by politicians to guide the course of inquiries which only they are empowered to conduct as per law.
When Rohini Salian exposed the machinations of the NIA through an affidavit in court it was clear that there was a serious attempt to let the Sadhvi off the hook. Because of her exposition it became somewhat difficult for the NIA but they devised a way that fortunately failed in the special court.
In my entire span of service I have not come across a case where a specialised agency has attempted to weaken the evidence collected instead of strengthening it. It seems obvious that the lofty traditions laid down in pervious eras by officers of the calibre of Kohli, Arul and Lobo have now been tossed out to oblige those who will in turn oblige the investigators with extensions in service or governors’ ‘gaddis’.
The greater tragedy is that by disregarding the primacy of the Rule of Law we, as a nation, are inculcating wrong values and ideas in the minds of young entrants to premier services.
The writer is a former chief of the Mumbai Police. The views expressed are personal.