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With two major states, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal withdrawing the ‘general consent’ given to the Central Bureau of Investigations(CBI) to investigate cases falling within their jurisdiction, the stage has been set for a “battle royal” between the ruling NDA and the non NDA ruled states in the months leading to the general elections.

Hours after the AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced his decision, West Bengal’s firebrand CM Mamata Banerjee also joined in to stop the CBI exercising its authority in the States. Backing her AP counterpart, Banerjee said “ Chandrababu has done right. The CBI takes orders from the BJP.”

Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister China Rajappa justified the State Government’s action saying it was taken against the backdrop of certain allegations against the country’s premier investigating agency. “We have trust in the CBI but the recent allegations against its top officials have made us withdraw the general consent. Henceforth, the CBI has to obtain the State Government’s permission for investigating every case,” Rajappa told the media.The general consent was withdrawn on the advice of lawyers and intellectuals, Rajappa claimed.

Even the Government in Karnataka had withdrawn the general consent for the CBI, he pointed out. Rajappa, however, clarified the CBI could take up investigation against Central Government officials without the State’s permission. “We will grant necessary permission whenever the CBI makes a request,” he added.

On August 3 this year, the AP Government issued the GO Ms No. 109 according “general consent” to all members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise the powers and jurisdiction in AP against officials of the Central Government, Central Government undertakings and private persons for investigating offences under various laws, including the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Reacting to the decision taken by Andhra and Bengal, the Congress on Friday said it is a “dangerous trend” that States Governments “no longer have faith” in the CBI.

“Unfortunately in the last four-and-a-half years, they (CBI and other agencies) have been treated like private armies of Amit Shah or Modi and that is why people doubt the ability of the CBI to act independently,” Congress leader Pawan Khera alleged.

The Congress leader said the recent goings-on in the CBI are a “very serious matter” and people should not lose faith in such premier agencies.

Ever since he snapped ties with the NDA in March, Chandrababu had been accusing the Centre of misusing the CBI to target political opponents. The recent raids by Income Tax authorities on some business establishments run by those close to the ruling Telugu Desam Party in the State have left Chandrababu red-faced.  Subsequently, he announced that his Government would not provide police cover to the IT officials for conducting the raids.

Meanwhile, CBI spokesperson in Delhi, said they have not yet received any such orders and will respond legally to it.

Opposition parties in AP decried the move and asserted the State Government did not have the authority to bar the CBI. The principal opposition YSR Congress alleged the controversial decision was taken only because the Chief Minister was scared of the CBI.

“Chandrababu should explain why he is blocking the CBI from the state,” YSRC Political Affairs Committee member Ambati Rambabu said. The ban order was issued at a time when the YSRC requested President Ram Nath Kovind and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for a “third party investigation” into the attack on Leader of Opposition Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, he said.

It may be recalled that that after he was recently attacked by a knife wielding man at the Visakhapatnam, the Leader of the opposition in the AP assembly YSR Jaganmohan reddy had demanded a CBI probe into the incident, saying he had no faith in the state . Naidu had seen this as a move by the BJP and the Reddy who is said to be cozying up to the NDA to destabilize his government.

—India Legal Bureau

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