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Without political pressure, CBI does a good job: CJI

Without political pressure, CBI does a good job: CJI

The Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday asked, "Why is it that whenever there are no political overtones to the case, the CBI does a good job."

He said that the CBI has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny in a number of high profile and politically sensitive cases, adding, "Equally true it is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently."

The Chief Justice remarked that public perception of the agency must be of the highest standards, especially given the "intense scrutiny" it is often subjected to. Subtly citing the example of the recent Unnao rape victim's accident case which was handed over the CBI, he said: "An investigation by the CBI was all that was asked for by those seeking to secure justice".

Gogoi said that instances of lapses in the probe agency's functioning reflected systemic issues and indicated a "deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture and governing politics".

The CJI was delivering the 18th DP Kohli Lecture, held in memory of CBI's founding Director, at Vigyan Bhawan on the "Role of the Police in Strengthening Justice Delivery" when he made poignant points about how the central probe agency might be faltering in executing certain parts of its responsibilities, calling it a "journey of introspection".

CJI Gogoi spoke about the lack of legal and constitutional clarity on demarcated spheres of the agency's functioning and overlapping areas of influence severely compromising both the "integrity and efficacy of the institution". He also talked about vacancies of crucial positions at the agency overburdening the current staff and said that all of these concerns carry the potential of "adversely denting the autonomy of the police force as a whole..."

The CJI cited Parliamentary Standing Committee report that said 15 percent posts of Executive, 28.37 percent of Law Officers, and 56.17 percent of Technical officers are lying vacant.

He also spoke of the lack of adequate investment in the agency and said, "Inadequate investment in personnel, training, equipment, or other support structures, adversely hampers professional discharge of duties."

However, he said that the reputation that the federal agency has earned over the last five decades by discharging its duties with "honour and distinction", is largely due to the exceptional calibre and broad vision of the founding Director Dharamnath Prasad Kohli, who imbibed the CBI with values of Industry, Impartiality, and Integrity - the agency motto.

Speaking of the road ahead for the country's premier investigative agency, the CJI said that serious efforts must be made to separate crucial aspects of the CBI from administrative control of the government.

"CBI should be given statutory status through legislation, equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)," he said, adding that it was because of the existing legislation that "the possibility of it (CBI) being used as a political instrument remains ever-present".

Further, Gogoi emphasised the importance of the agency having financial autonomy as well, saying that the CBI has often been pulled up for slow utilisation of funds, leading to a steep reduction of funds. He added that the establishment of technical and forensic support units end up bearing the consequences of such situations.

The Cheif Justice added that accountability, both internal and external must not be forgotten and that he has no doubt that "there is more than enough strength within this organisation (CBI) to deal with any such situation".

Abhinay Lakshman

Abhinay Lakshman

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