In an age when transparency is the buzzword in governance, the Indian government seems to be keen to go down a different path. Call it the reaction of a scam-scarred government or the arrogance of a government in power for nine years, the UPA, in the last few months has shown that when times are tough, it can go to great lengths to shut its doors on the face of citizens. This kind of ‘don’t ask-too-many-questions’ attitude is strange because this is the same government that once could not end the day without reminding the people that it is the one which passed the Right To Information Bill, giving transparency a leg-up.
Leave alone the people, the right to question is also being denied to even to the main investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). According to a report in the Hindustan Times, the CBI may soon require the Centre’s permission to question senior retired officers — of the rank of joint secretary and above — in corruption cases. This will be done by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that governs the CBI. Last week, the CBI had told the Supreme Court during a hearing related to the allocation of coal blocks that it was difficult to function as an independent agency. The CBI is awaiting a nod to prosecute 36 high-ranking officials named in high-profile corruption cases. Only recently, thanks to relentless opposition from the RTI activists the government was forced to refer a Bill, which aimed at shielding political parties from providing information under the RTI, to a parliamentary standing committee.
The officers that the government is trying to shield are paid by taxpayers and like legislators are ‘servants of the people’. They are answerable to the people on the decisions that they took on their behalf. This is not to say that all leaders and bureaucrats are crooks. However, explanations need to be given. Or is it that the government fears certain bureaucrats, now unfettered after retirement, would come out and lay the blame at the door of the political leaders.