NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday did some plain speaking at a CBI programme, pointing out that the agency had not been able to “meet the standards of judicial scrutiny” in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases.
“Why is that whenever there are no political overtones to the case, the CBI does a good job,” Gogoi said while addressing the 18th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture at Vigyan Bhawan during which he presented awards to distinguished CBI personnel selected for outstanding investigation and performance.
CJI Gogoi said the possibility of the agency being used as a “political instrument” remained ever-present given that superintendence and control of the agency, in large measure, remained with the executive by virtue of provisions in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
CBI should be given statutory status like CAG: CJI
Efforts must be made to delink crucial aspects of the CBI from the overall administrative control of the government. The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller and Auditor General,” the CJI said.
The CJI’s remarks read like a sharp indictment, particularly in the context of high-profile cases involving senior politicians, some of whom served as ministers and chief ministers, dragging on for years. His speech also came in the backdrop of a bruising internal fight in the CBI last year which led to the exit of the then director Alok Verma and his erstwhile number two Rakesh Asthana. Later, additional director Praveen Sinha said the agency was in the process of revising its crime manual and would include the CJI’s suggestions in it.
Asserting that public perception of the agency must be of the highest degree given the intense scrutiny its working is subjected to, the CJI pointed out how till some time ago, an investigation by the CBI was all that was asked for by those seeking justice. “Such was the trust people reposed in this institution. Any gap between public perception and the quality of institutional performance will adversely impact governance of the nation, which we can ill afford,” he said.
He, however, added that he did not doubt there was enough strength in the organisation to deal with any such situation. “A reverse situation led to the celebrated case of Vineet Narain vs UOI, wherein the SC expressed concern at the state of affairs and laid down explicit guidelines for protecting the integrity of the force,” he said.
Calling the CBI a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary investigating agency, with a wide range of work, CJI Gogoi said the agency had for most part of its existence enjoyed tremendous trust among citizens. “Unfortunately, attention is more often than not drawn to failure rather than success of any public institution. True, in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases, the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny. Equally true is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently. Such instances reflect systemic issues and indicate a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture and governing politics,” he said.