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Why CBI needs consent?

Topics covered:

  1. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

 

Why CBI needs consent?

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: CBI- Establishment, its functioning, issues related to its autonomy and need for consent in investigations.

 

Context: Reversing his predecessor’s orders, Andhra Prdesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to go ahead with investigations and raids in the State without prior permission of the State government.

 

Background:

The Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal governments, had last year, withdrawn “general consent” to the CBI for investigating cases in their respective states. The state governments said they had lost faith in the CBI in the backdrop of its internal turmoil marked by the open war among the agency’s top officers. They had also alleged that the Centre is using the CBI to unfairly target Opposition parties.

 

What is general consent?

Unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by its own NIA Act and has jurisdiction across the country, the CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting investigation in that state.

There are two kinds of consent: 

  1. case-specific and general– Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state only after that state government gives its consent.

“General consent” is normally given to help the CBI seamlessly conduct its investigation into cases of corruption against central government employees in the concerned state. Almost all states have given such consent. Otherwise, the CBI would require consent in every case.

 

What does withdrawal mean?

It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving a central government official or a private person stationed in these two states without getting case-specific consent. Withdrawal of consent simply means that CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

 

Under what provision can general consent been withdrawn?

In exercise of power conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the state governments can withdraw the general consent accorded. Section 6 of the Act says, “Nothing contained in Section 5 (which deals with jurisdiction of CBI) shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union Territory or Railway, area, without the consent of the Government of that State.”

 

Can withdrawal mean that the CBI can no longer probe any case?

No. The CBI would still have the power to investigate old cases registered when general consent existed. Also, cases registered anywhere else in the country, but involving people stationed in states which have withdrawn consent, would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.

 

What can the CBI do in such instances?

The CBI can always get a search warrant from a local court in the state and conduct searches. In case the search requires a surprise element, there is CrPC Section 166, which allows a police officer of one jurisdiction to ask an officer of another to carry out searches on his behalf. And if the first officer feels that the searches by the latter may lead to loss of evidence, the section allows the first officer to conduct searches himself after giving a notice to the latter.

 

What happens in fresh cases?

  • Withdrawal of consent will only bar the CBI from registering a case within the jurisdiction of states which have withdrawn consent. However, the CBI could still file cases in Delhi and continue to probe people inside such states.
  • An October 11, 2018, order of the Delhi High Court makes it clear that the agency can probe anyone in a state that has withdrawn “general consent” if the case is not registered in that state. The order was given with regard to a case of corruption in Chhattisgarh, which also gives consent on a case-to-case basis. The court ordered that the CBI could probe the case without prior consent of the Chhattisgarh government since it was registered in Delhi.

 

Sources: the Hindu.