Amidst the political drama over the nuclear deal, the CBI has managed to hit the headlines by telling the Supreme Court that it has “sufficient” evidence to proceed against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in the disproportionate assets case. But the timing of the CBI’s assertion has raised questions over its claim of being an independent probe agency, particularly given its sloppy track record in dealing with high-profile cases involving politicians.
The zeal with which the CBI has chosen to proceed against Mayawati in the immediate aftermath of her arch-rival Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav reaching an understanding with the Congress gives rise to suspicion of the agency being used by the government to fix its political rivals.
Surprisingly, only a few months ago, the same CBI was after Mulayam and his family, accusing them of amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. It vehemently supported a PIL in the Supreme Court for an in-depth probe against the Yadav family. In fact, the agency has already completed a preliminary enquiry against Mulayam and his family and it would be interesting to see how it proceeds against the man who is now close to the ruling UPA.
The CBI’s action against Mayawati is in sharp contrast to its handling of cases against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren in the Shashi Nath Jha murder case. In both cases, the agency chose not to file appeals against the leaders of the RJD and JMM following their acquittal by a Patna special court and the Delhi High Court, respectively.
After the agency failed to challenge the acquittal of Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi, the Bihar government was forced to approach the Patna High Court against the special court’s verdict. As expected, the politician couple moved Supreme Court, questioning the Bihar government’s right to challenge an order passed by a CBI special court. Interestingly, the probe agency was virtually defending the Lalu-Rabri duo in Supreme Court.
The CBI’s conduct in the Shashi Nath Jha murder case is even more interesting. Reversing the trial court’s verdict, the Delhi High Court acquitted Soren and others in the case. The agency did file an appeal in the Supreme Court but chose not to challenge the JMM leader’s acquittal. Jha’s family members had to file an appeal against Soren.
The JMM MPs bribery case and St Kitts forgery case involving former PM Narasimha Rao are also testimony to the “premier” investigating agency’s questionable conduct. In both these cases, it did not challenge the acquittal orders of the Delhi High Court.
In the Bofors case too, perhaps the most publicised case of corruption in high places, the agency did not file any appeal before the Supreme Court against two orders of the Delhi High Court — the first quashing corruption charges and the second quashing all proceedings against the Hinduja brothers. Here too a PIL petitioner has gone to the Supreme Court.
Despite its doubtful conduct in high-profile cases, the agency still enjoys a certain degree of credibility, as people invariably ask for a CBI probe in important cases. One can only expect the agency respects the public faith reposed in it and acts in a manner that can be said to be above board.