The Central Bureau of Investigation is in dire straits. It is running short of investigators and prosecutors to track down the corrupt and put them on trial in courts.
India’s premier investigating agency has vacancies ranging from 10 to 60 per cent at different ranks of its primary investigating wing.
The shortage of officers leads to delays in investigations and the agency taking up only “quality” cases — an euphemism for fewer cases. A similar shortage of prosecutors has led to longer trials in courts.
This week, the government came up with a stopgap arrangement to resolve part of the problem and allowed the CBI to hire criminal lawyers practising independently on a three-year contract.
This is the first time that the central government has come up with a scheme to hire prosecutors for the premier investigating agency on contract.
A rap on the knuckles from the Bombay High Court last November seems to have pushed the government on its feet.
The judge noted the shortages of prosecutors and designated courts, saying the situation would get worse if state police cases were transferred to the central agency. “…even the state government is better,” Justice J.N. Patel observed at the same hearing and called for an explanation from the Centre.
“…the government has been aware of the vacancy position in Central Bureau of Investigation, particularly that of prosecutors and resultant growing number of cases pending trial in various courts,” Manisha Saxena, deputy secretary at the department of personnel and training acknowledged in the office memorandum, building the case for the recruitment on contract.
Saxena’s directive put a limit of 60 special prosecutors and assistant special prosecutors against the 72 vacancies of prosecutors in different ranks.
A committee headed by CBI director Ashwani Kumar has been given a free hand to set out the procedure to shortlist and identify the criminal lawyers to be hired at a consolidated salary of Rs 60,000 and Rs 40,000, for special prosecutors with at least seven years experience and assistant special prosecutors with at least three years experience, respectively.
The initial contract period will be for three years, extendable by two more years.
But the usual penalties imposed on permanent government officers for misconduct would not be applicable on them due to the short tenure.
Saxena’s memo said disciplinary provisions of the Bar Council of India could be invoked for professional misconduct.
Apart from termination of the contract, the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act would also apply to them as they would be public servants during the term of their contract, the order said.