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Resurrecting the CBI

D Mukherjee, Shantonu Sen and N Dilip Kumar expatiate on CBI’s former prestige and the steps necessary to build a more vibrant and vigorous agency

Resurrecting the CBI

Recently AG Noorani has written on "The Police and the Constitution" in Frontline, saying, "the charter of the CBI will be worthless unless it gives statutory recognition to the principle that it is a police force's duty to enforce the law and to prevent and detect crime and that politicians cannot interfere in the discharge of this duty." But if Police is, in the words of Abhinav Kumar, a serving IPS Officer writing in Indian Express, in throes of "a culture of servility" or an "emasculated and politicised force" or worse "police are simply bounden servants of government of the day", then what? CBI, give it any charter, will remain as it has become – just a police force that Abhinav Kumar describes. Many demands have fallen on deaf ears. The anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare had demanded the creation of a totally autonomous Jan Lokpal that would control both the CBI and the CVC. What of it? Zilch. So much so for the commitment of political parties to the cause of anti-corruption in the country!

We have to go back to the drawing board in search of a vibrant CBI. Armed with the success of Special Police Establishment (SPE) created to tackle corruption in the army in 1941, its great success rests entirely on the integrity and pride in belonging to an elite force, its jurisdiction was continuously expanded and DSPE Act in 1946 gave it statutory basis, limited to Delhi, though. From there to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on April 1, 1963, in the wake of the Santhanam Committee report, the progress was huge. Although it had fallen short of statutory backing, riding on its SPE colours and compelling performance in crippling the corrupt, CBI was welcome in all states well in the 21st Century.

How did it all begin? Who are the police officers who headed it? The first name to remember is Qurban Ali, a Deputy Inspector General, who converted a band of officers from Sindh Police (Sindhis fearful of impending Pakistan holding on to SPE) into fearsome striking force. The second man is Bombaywalla who gave it a good impetus. But to its third incumbent that all is due. He headed it for 12 years (1955 to 1967), first as Inspector General, SPE, and then as Director CBI — DP Kohli. Visionary, hardboiled with a personal integrity beyond doubt. He is CBI's creator in every sense. He brought people in from states and permanently recruited in CBI, officers with moral and financial integrity. He kept out the flamboyant. The credibility of Kohli was so much that the then Home Secretary, minuted in the file, 'And who could be a better choice to head the CBI but Sri DP Kohli, the present IGP, SPE?' Under their aegis, the organisation was formally structured with an elaborate manual. But, the turning point to make CBI vulnerable and also the decay of it began immediately after he retired. His successor Arul conducted raids on some party men in Bihar, following the Aiyar Commission report on corruption against ministers of Sri KB Sahay government; Indira Gandhi, PM, abruptly repatriated him to Tamil Nadu.

The machinations of politicians repeatedly saw to it that the Chief was tossed about with every change of the political dispensation. Officers also began to be identified with their nexus with those in governance. D Sen who succeeded Arul, and continued as director for six years, had to ultimately undergo imprisonment for breach of privilege of Parliament for his effort to misinform it in the matter of textile inspectors who had probed against a firm owned by Maneka Gandhi's mother. In Janata era, although his successor, CV Narasimhan, was a brilliant officer, Indira Gandhi's arrest and release led to a fiasco that ended his tenure.

Then, it was John Lobo who steadied the CBI boat. He was an old CBI hand. Directors who had served in the CBI were better equipped to steer it. R D Singh had not; thus, though clean and reputed for investigating Emergency excesses or because of it, Mrs Gandhi terminated his reign of seven months. JS Bawa, the next one with one extension, helped Mrs Gandhi to survive the criminal prosecutions launched by R D Singh. Her assassination shunted him out and in came MG Katre from Mumbai. He struck a chord with Rajiv Gandhi and with Home Secretary (Pradhan) and Cabinet Secretary (Deshmukh), both from his cadre and enjoyed a close relationship with North Block. In his time, CBI also became an anti-terrorist force. CBI expanded with a Punjab Cell and Border CBI, both dealing with terrorism.

Thereafter, Governments had short tenures and so did Directors of CBI. AP Mukherjee (3 months), Rajendra Sekhar ( less than a year), S K Dutta (one year). It was unfortunate as they were all imbued in CBI culture with long previous stints in CBI. Had they stayed longer, CBI would have been the gainer. Dispensing with a CBI background in appointing Directors, F V Arul in 1967, R D Singh in 1979, Vijay Karan in 1990, was not propitious; yet, Vijay Rama Rao, without any past experience in CBI was placed at its helm. Although he took some good administrative initiatives, he lost it all torpedoing the Hawala Diaries and favouring the kin of the PM and others in the Rs 133 crore Urea Scam. He destroyed the CBI image, converting it into "bounden servants of government of the day". That is how it remains. The present acrimony between the top two is a fall out for spoils between two bounden servants of the government of the day. The Vineet Narain mandate of the Supreme Court has appointed Directors who only worsened the reputation of CBI. The party in power has dictated the appointment of CBI Director. One director of CBI admitted to one of us that he was even interviewed by a Party man who also told him to be ready to take over. Thus, the Supreme Court has been thwarted.

The way to a vibrant CBI has to be through its Director and the SC mandate must be implemented more meaningfully. It has to be transparent and open to RTI. For this, an objective and mathematical model of selection process needs to be evolved, giving due weight to each of the aspects of seniority, experience in the CBI and anti-corruption work, and the steady maintenance of integrity in one's career. A practical model is, therefore, proposed as:

The year of allotment of the senior-most candidate, otherwise eligible, should be given 10 marks, and scaled down progressively, like those in 1967 batch could be given 10 marks, and those in 1970 batch would get 7 marks.

Experience in CBI would be given 5 marks for each year served, while the services in state ACBs, Vigilance in state/Central organisations, Commissions of enquiry, in areas like audit, will procure 4,3,2,1 marks respectively for each year served.

For another crucial element in the selection, integrity, ten years of consistent integrity has to be assessed, by allotting marks for each year and taking its average. 'Impeccable or transparent integrity' needs to be given 10 marks, while 'beyond doubt' gets 9 marks. Likewise, 'nothing adverse' will be 8, 'doubtful' will be 6, and 'bad' will get 0 marks. Since often the entries in the ACRs are subjective due to the proximity of the officers to the reporting officer, it is advisable to get it cross-checked by the CVC and CBI through their systems and award parallel grading marks so that the marks obtained through all these sources would form the basis to finalise the marks an officer deserves.

Appreciation letter, recommendation certification of the government also cannot be ignored. Each one deserves to be given at least 1 mark.

Marks need also to be given to the overall assessment of ACRs of 10 years and use the average of it. While 'outstanding' will get 10 marks, and 'very good' 8 marks, 'good', 'average' and 'below average' will be given 6, 4, and 2 marks respectively. 'Adverse' ACR will fetch 2 negative marks.

The final list of officers in the panel for the selection of director, CBI, will be made based on the aggregate of the marks of all the above parameters. It would thus be very objective and transparent, discarding the aspect of subjectivity and political diktats. We three old hands of the CBI suggest the above norms to guide a CBI Director's appointment. We also urge early framing of a CBI Act. Placing CBI and CVC under the control of an autonomous Lokpal should be the next step.

(D Mukherjee, IPS (Retd), former DGP Tamil Nadu; Shantonu Sen, former Jt Director, CBI; Dr N Dilip Kumar IPS (Retd), former Member, Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)

D Mukherjee, Shantonu Sen and N Dilip Kumar

D Mukherjee, Shantonu Sen and N Dilip Kumar

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