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Parliamentary panel recommends new law to define power, functions of CBI

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies

 

Source: TH

 Context: According to a Parliamentary Committee, existing law governing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has many limitations and there is a need to enact new legislation to define its status, functions and powers.

 

Background:

  • The CBI was established in 1963 (on the recommendation of the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption) and is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.
  • According to the DSPE Act, the consent of the State government is a prerequisite for any investigation by the CBI.
  • As of date, 9 States have withdrawn the general consent and the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice came amid these withdrawals.

 

Issues faced by the CBI:

  • A caged parrot: For instance, to prosecute any MLA/state minister, the CBI needs sanction from the Speaker of the state Assembly (for MLAs)/ the Governor (for state ministers).
    • Since all these sanctioning authorities have links to the ruling dispensation, Opposition parties feel they are unfairly targeted.
  • Structural constraints: Both the legal structure and the changes made in the Rules governing CBI have hindered the functioning of the CBI.
  • Political tug-of-war: Increasingly hostile relations between the Centre and the state governments (usually ruled by opposition parties).
  • Inadequate manpower: 1,709 posts are vacant against its sanctioned strength of 7,295 → increasing pendency of cases, hampering the quality of investigation → impacting the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency.
  • Opaqueness: The details of the cases and the annual report CBI is also not accessible to the general public.

 

Efforts to reform the institution:

  • In the landmark 1997 Vineet Narain judgement, the SC fixed the tenure of the CBI Director at two years to secure the autonomy of the CBI.
  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) – supervision powers over CBI – has been given statutory status (CVC Act, 2003).
  • The Lokpal Act 2013, laid down that the CBI Director should be chosen, unanimously or by majority vote, by a search committee headed by the PM (LoP, CJI as other members), from a Home Ministry-drawn list.
  • However, these reforms have been progressively diluted by various governments over the years.
    • For example, the DSPE Act has been amended (2021) to give the government the power to extend the term of CBI director by one year – diluting autonomy.

 

Recommendations of the parliamentary committee:

  • A new law (also recommended by the 2nd ARC) to define the status, functions and powers of the CBI → safeguards to ensure objectivity and impartiality.
  • Fill up vacancies at the earliest. The CBI director should monitor the progress in this regard on a quarterly basis.
  • Reduce dependence on deputations and strive to recruit permanent staff in the ranks of inspector of police and DSP.
  • Details of cases should be available in the public domain → empower the citizens → make the functioning of CBI more accountable, responsible, efficient and transparent.
    • For this, a case management system which would be a centralised database should be considered.

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Freeing the caged parrot