CBI, secure in the cage?
The UPA government proposed twice in five years that an independent directorate of prosecution be set up, with a separate budget. The agency had turned down the offer. Nagendar Sharma writes. Connecting the dotsdelhi Updated: May 16, 2013 07:32 IST
What social activist Anna Hazare's fasts - the absence of carrots, so to speak - could not achieve, the apex court's stick did.
Last fortnight, there was a series of political earthquakes, following the Supreme Court's observation that the CBI was a caged parrot, speaking in the voice of its political masters.
Hazare's fasts in 2011 - demanding that the CBI be brought under the control of the lokpal - brought this issue centre stage for a short while, but was duly pushed to the wings later.
The provocation for the parrot comment: The probe agency got its report on the irregularities in coal block allocations vetted by the law ministry, especially then law minister Ashwani Kumar, before submitting it to the Supreme Court.
The stick worked this time. Kumar was forced to quit the ministry and CBI chief Ranjit Sinha had to admit - breaking the sacred tradition of his predecessors - that the agency was indeed a "caged parrot".
The powers that be had to move fast and set up a group of ministers on Tuesday for recommending steps to liberate the agency from political interference.But this raises the obvious question: What sort of autonomy is being envisaged for the CBI and to whom would the CBI be ultimately accountable?
Though legal experts and the Law Commission of India have been recommending autonomy for the CBI for the past five decades, the first major attempt was made by the Supreme Court in 1997.
Vineet Narain, an anti-corruption activist, filed a PIL in the hawala scam, which hit a lot of top leaders of the BJP. The move was to pressure the CBI after its prosecution collapsed in the court.
In its judgment on the PIL, the court asked the Central Vigilance Commission to supervise the agency's probe into corruption-related cases. But the guidelines remained only on paper.
The CBI continued its flip-flops in high-profile cases involving politicians - the disproportionate assets cases against BSP chief Mayawati, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD boss Lalu Prasad, for instance.
The CBI, however, has itself to blame for the flip-flops and for letting politicians always snap at its heels.
The UPA government proposed twice in five years that an independent directorate of prosecution be set up, with a separate budget. The agency had turned down the offer.
It could have ended the agency's dependence on the law ministry for legal advice and services of law officers.