The ‘Civil War’ in the CBI

The Central Bureau of Investigation is the prime investigating agency of the Centre. The parties running the Union Government from time to time have been accused of harassing their political opponents by using, inter alia, the CBI. But the CBI has always presented its public image as an competent body working with professional expertise and efficiency. Never before has it been seen that two senior most officials of this organization are engaged in a running battle against each other. But the registering of an FIR by the CBI against its own Special Director, Rakesh Asthana, accusing him of graft, has exposed the civil war going on in this premier probe body. What has appeared in the newspapers seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. More powerful people in the highest echelons of the Government are said to be involved.
Alok Verma, the CBI Director, and Asthana, have made accusations against each other. Without going into the merits of the accusations, what stands out is that the top leadership of the CBI is divided. This will undoubtedly lower its prestige and credibility with the people. This public spat must stop not only in the interest of the CBI itself but also in the interest of the Union Government. It is rather strange that the CBI has brought bribery charge against its own Special Director but the officer concerned has not even been suspended. Reports say that not only Asthana but another officer of India’s premier external intelligence agency, the R & AW, has also been named in the FIR.
Taken together, these developments will create the general impression that the people who are entrusted with the responsibility of preventing economic offences and financial irregularities and bringing the guilty to justice, are themselves not above suspicion. Questions will also be raised about the integrity of those running other organizations of the Centre, like the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Special Fraud Investigation Office, etc. The people believe that those who are the top of these organizations are above venality and misdemeanour.
In Western countries, probe agencies act independently. They are immune to political interference. The MI 5 inquired into the scandal involving former UK Defence Minister Profumo with Christine Keeler, suspected to be a Russian spy. More recently, the FBI inquired into the allegation that Donald Trump had taken Russian help to with the presidential election. The legacy we have inherited from the colonial rulers holds the high and the mighty beyond the long arm of the law. That legacy still persists.

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018