Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jan 2019 10:01:10

THE decision of the three-member committee to remove Mr. Alok Verma as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may have invited sharp criticism from some politically-motivated quarters, but it, nevertheless, has given the Government an opportunity to mend the image of the country’s premier investigating agency. In the past 10-15 years, the agency has been blamed for many reasons, principal among those being a hand-maiden of the people in power. Even though much of the blame did not stick, there are many aspects of the CBI’s functioning that need a serious re-look. And the fact that such a need is being felt, makes it critical to examine the method and manner of the agency and do some course correction wherever needed. The Alok Verma episode has given the Government an opportunity to do so effectively.

Most critical among the charges against Mr. Alok Verma concerned his compromising stance as regards investigations into a few scandals. Another charge was of favouritism Mr. Verma indulged in while making some recruitments. Obviously, the Government found such charges too serious to be ignored. Hence the ultimate action of removing Mr. Alok Verma. The whole nation knows how the Alok Verma episode progressed into a very serious issue. The involvement of the honourable Supreme Court in the efforts to sort out the matter properly also indicates how serious the whole affair had become.

All these offer the Government a reason good enough to take a serious second look at the functoning of the CBI and implement certain course-correction as per the need. To begin with, the Government will have to start with the action of granting the CBI complete autonomy not just in philosophical terms, but also in operational matters well beyond politics. So bad has the reputation of the agency become that many have rechristened the CBI as ‘Central Bureau of Interference’, indicating that the agency has become a tool in the hands of the Centre to interfere in various matters and distort those beyond recognition. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in Opposition, it levelled such charges occasionally against the CBI. Now, it is its opportunity to ensure that such charges come unstuck.

In fact, the CBI needs to be refurbished by an altogether different organsational set-up that does not have to draw manpower from other State agencies. At many places, the CBI operates with only a fistful of people whose numbers are far below the actual manpower requirement. That causes delays in investigation and allows some faults to creep into the process of investigation, and reduces the efficiency levels at which the CBI is expected to operate all the time. This means clearly that the CBI needs a fairly larger organisational spread and better technological support systems so that the agency does not have to depend too much on other governmental set-ups.

The Alok Verma episode has given the Government a good opportunity to take a serious re-look at the CBI and effect necessary course correction. The Government will have to ensure that a right message goes across to the people that the CBI is not its hand-maiden. The greatest strength of any such agency is its autonomy. If there are doubts about its autonomy, then special efforts need to be done to erase the wrong image. Unfortunately, in the past, the Government has abused the CBI on many occasions, one of the most prominent being the effort to embroil Mr. Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Mr. Amit Shah, then an important functionary in the Gujarat State Government, in the Gujarat riots and Sohrabuddin cases with the help of the CBI, by the United Progressive Aliance (UPA) Government. That was a blatant example of the CBI abuse.

It is time, the Modi Government made special efforts to erase any such shades in the CBI’s image. The agency has a glorious history, and its prestige as such needs to be restored with efforts that go beyond politics, never mind the criticism from some motivated quarters.