CBI is a political tool and hardly an investigative agency. Now it needs to rebuild the trust of the people it serves
The premier investigative agency in any country runs on trust and when the agency, in this case the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), loses the trust of the people it is meant to serve, there is a problem. At the core of the problem is simply this fact — the CBI is supposed to serve the citizens of India but it has over the years become an instrument of the Central government. Although, it has to be said that in this regard it is like any other police force in India, completely politicised and corrupt down to its core, if not monetarily almost certainly morally. In fact, the overall lack of trust of the police in India has reached endemic proportions and is universal across all social strata, with possibly the exception of politicians. That is not to say that there are no good cops, there certainly are some very earnest officers and constables doing their best but when the premier police force of the country is bent, one should not expect other forces to be straight. It is now imperative for the Central Government and the Supreme Court to restore a sense of confidence in the CBI. While it undoubtedly has become a tool of political oppression, the fact is that almost every politician has skeletons in the cupboards and the CBI can be used to ferret them out. So how can faith be restored? Possibly by making the appointment process a whole lot cleaner. It is no secret that several officers lobby hard for the job of effectively being the top cop in India. Like such appointments in the United States, it may not be a bad idea for the next CBI boss to at least be vetted by Parliament before he or she gets the job. This is how every major position is filled in the United States with Congressional committees clearing each candidate. Even though that process is also liable for majoritarian abuse, an open discussion will at least allow the public to make up their minds.
By becoming a ‘caged parrot’ in the Supreme Court’s own words, the CBI has become almost openly partisan and that also impacts the way it looks at criminal cases, with evidence emerging of certain officers trying to scuttle cases by sheer incompetence or egregious negligence. It has been suggested that the Supreme Court oversee the CBI but that would be a breach of the function of the judiciary and the fact that judges are appointed by themselves in a thoroughly undemocratic process will basically just transfer ownership. It might be impossible to remove political interference from the CBI or for that matter any large institution in India, and that has been the way in every democratic society from ancient Greece to today. But giving the CBI more independence, like the US gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and some suo moto powers to investigate certain types of cases can be a start. There could be a dedicated staff instead of officers on secondment from state cadres and parliamentary vetting for all senior officers. The selection of the next CBI chief should be beyond reproach.