Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the premier investigation agency of the country, has been in the news for wrong reasons, for few years now. It has been accused of being used by political masters, poor investigation and inapt handling of prosecution. Accused in number of important cases have either been acquitted or discharged in the recent past, which as dented its credibility. However, the recent spate between the Director and its Special Director, who have levelled serious allegations of corruption against one another, followed by registration of FIR against the number two has brought the Agency to an unprecedented low. Though the raging feud between the two has been in public domain for some time, the Government and the CVC, who exercise superintendence in their respective fields, desisted from taking any visible action. The crisis followed by registration of FIR on complaint of an accused that money was demanded and taken for extending favour by certain persons on behalf of Special Director and his earlier allegations against his boss compelled the Superintending bodies to send both them on compulsory leave. Later on a petition by the Director CBI against the government action to send him on leave before expiry of his secure tenure, the Apex Court ordered an enquiry as regards allegations against the Director to be completed within two weeks by CVC under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge.
All this has pained right thinking persons in the country and more so, to the officers, who spent their major part of career serving the organisation. The reputation of the CBI, known for its competence, fair and impartial investigation and successfully handling of several important and sensitive cases lies in tatters today. While the present crisis might have manifested into an ugly situation, it is a culminated result of decline in its overall functioning and standards of probity that started few years ago. The successive Directors, some of whom have been under cloud, failed to stem the rot so much so some insiders believe that the corruption in the organisation at various levels has reached alarming proportions and would require a massive purge and overhaul to restore its original glory.
There is no doubt that there is something seriously wrong with the Agency that calls for urgent remedial measures. The suggestions made in this regard are an attempt to initiate a serious discussion on the subject. The induction process of senior supervisory officers, which has been brought into existence by amending DSPE Act (the law that governs CBI) first by CVC Act and later by Lokpal Act has failed to deliver which is evident from the fact that two former Directors are under investigation, the CVC is looking into the conduct of present Director under the oversight of a former Supreme Court Judge and even the Joint Director, now made interim Director, is also reportedly under cloud.
The Director is appointed on the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party) and the Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him. The recommendation is to be made on the basis of seniority, integrity and experience in the investigation of anti-corruption cases. The selection committee, which selects officers from the rank of SP to Special Director, consists of the Central Vigilance Commissioner as Chairperson, Vigilance Commissioners, Secretary Personnel, Home Secretary (the Cadre controlling authority of Indian Police Service). It also provides that this Committee shall consult the Director before submitting its recommendation to the Central Government.
On the face of it, both the Committees appear to be very formidable. However, the members of the committee mainly depend on the annual confidential reports and the vigilance clearance given the respective authorities, which by no means provide an insight, required to select right officers for premier investigating agency of the country. Moreover, the policy of inducting senior officers who have no experience of working in CBI as SP or DIG initiated by a particular Director almost a decade ago, and now almost a norm, has led to disastrous consequences. It is not to say that all such officers have proved to be failure but definitely most of them could not meet the required high standards of professional acumen and provide the desired supervision/guidance to the investigating officers in the field.
There is need to identify officers working in the States keeping in view professional competence in the field of investigation and integrity, and encourage them to join CBI. The CVC led committee meant for selecting officers should be assisted by a body of professionals having expertise in the field of investigation and law who may interview prospective inductees and provide their inputs to the Selection Committee. The high power selection committee, designated to select Director should be assisted by a body of experts not only from the field of investigation, administration, human resource management, finance and budget control who may provide their detailed feedback to the Committee after interacting with prospective officers. The interviews may be recorded so that in case the Committee desires it may have access to the same. The committee may even call a limited number of shortlisted candidates for personal interaction to ensure that only a deserving candidate with qualities of leadership, professional competence in the field of investigation and law, as well as possessing administrative acumen is inducted.
(The writer, an IPS officer, retired as Director General of Bureau of Police Research & Development and has served for long years in CBI, NIA & Andhra Pradesh. The views expressed are personal.)