India’s premier investigative agency CBI is once again in the headlines but for a wrong reason. While former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha is already being probed by the agency he once headed, this time it is his predecessor AP Singh, who is under the scanner.
While Sinha is being investigated by the CBI for trying to scuttle the agency’s probe into the coal scam by meeting the accused personally at his house, Singh has got into trouble for doling out favours to controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
Questions are being raised about the credibility of the CBI as an institution. If CBI itself is biased or favours the accused, is fair justice possible in cases where it is given charge of the probe, especially high-profile cases?
CBI has often been in the past accused of functioning as an agent of the government. It was slammed by the Supreme Court in the past for being a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”.
The recent India Legal show discussed the issue in detail. The panelists included former acting chief justice of the Gauhati High Court K Sreedhar Rao, senior advocate of the Supreme Court Pradeep Rai, senior advocate of the Supreme Court KTS Tulsi, among others. Some of the key observations made by them were:
K Sreedhar Rao said: “If you look at the constitution of the CBI in 1963, there was absolutely no inkling that this kind of situation would arise in future. The society was morally strong then. The question of constitution of the agency is itself in controversy. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court…
“As far as the probity of the institution is concerned, we have seen very disturbing tendencies in the recent past and hence the impartiality of the agency is under question. The performance of the CBI is quite different in cases which are not high profile. But the situation changes drastically when high profile cases are involved—there is a chance of political interference…
“If we talk about the case of Ranjit Sinha, the Supreme Court has clearly held that he was meeting the accused persons without the presence of the concerned investigative officer.”
Pradeep Rai said: “The fact that both Ranjit Sinha and AP Singh were appointed in the CBI as heads is itself a slur on its reputation. “When AP Singh was appointed as the director, his image was more or less clean. His wife Dr Shabnam was friends with the accused Moin Qureshi. We can say that it is because of Moin Qureshi that AP Singh’s name has been tarnished. But Singh also got favours in return which can be termed as illegal.
“But Ranjit Sinha was famous for taking bribes. He was called ‘Taimur Lung’. Sinha did not leave a single house as far as taking money for disposing of cases is concerned. He made a mockery of our justice system. He became director CBI through political influence.
“The main job of the CBI was to investigate corrupt government officials and bring them to book. But the CBI is itself filled to the brim with corrupt officials. If you look at the assignment of officers in different cases you will see that there are cases where even an officer from the custom department was handling a crucial investigation.
“People have immense faith in the CBI. So it is very important to see what sought of people are recruited in the agency and who takes up the job of a director.”
Rao said that the process of appointment of directors is clean after the intervention of the Supreme Court but directors do come under political pressure after they take up the top job. “If at all we want a transparent and honest investigation, CBI should be made autonomous…”
KTS Tulsi said that there are number of measures which if carried out will help ensure that the investigation is fair. “The only way to assure an impartial investigation is to make full use of technology… There should be interrogation rooms in police stations. Two cameras, both synchronized and temper-proof, should also be there in the room. One to take a close-up of the accused to study his/her movements and facial expression and the other a wide angle camera to ensure the statements are all voluntary and without any pressure. The telephonic conversations in every police station should be automatically recorded and considered as an FIR. In every police station there should be mobile forensic vans to go with the homicide squad.”
For more details, see the video of the show here:
—Compiled by Usha Rani Das