CBI prosecutor’s collusion a part of larger malaise

The answer lies in making the agency independent and accountable, along with its prosecution wing


Prasanna Mohanty | February 12, 2013

The news of the CBI prosecutor in the 2G scam case, AK Singh, colluding with the high-profile accused in the case may be shocking but not quite unusual. The CBI is known better for bungling its cases involving high-profile individuals. The disproportionate assets cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are just two of the recent ones in which it has been flip-flopping for years by presenting conflicting affidavits to suit the needs of its political masters.

The CBI has done well to take Singh out of the case and register a preliminary enquiry (PE) to probe the matter after his taped conversations with the accused surfaced, in which he is heard advising the accused how to manipulate the case to their advantage. Once his culpability is established through forensic examinations and other evidence, the prosecutor may be punished, the possibility of which is remote though, but that will clearly not be enough to prevent a recurrence.

RS Sodhi, retired Delhi high court judge, tells Governance Now that the incident reflects “moral degradation of the entire system”. “He (AK Singh) is part of the same system. It is the system’s failure. We are choosing people with doubtful integrity. It is happening everywhere, including the judiciary.”

This case may have come to light because the CBI prosecutor was probably acting on his own volition. What happens when the CBI actively colludes in weakening the cases as we have often seen in many high-profile cases involving politicians? That is the question that must be answered. In fact, that is what Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, through their anti-corruption crusade, tried to address by proposing that the CBI be made independent of the government, and so is the prosecution wing. Their suggestion was to hand over the task to the Lokpal.

The government has refused to hand over the control of the CBI to the proposed Lokpal on the plea that there is no political consensus on this. There never will be any because all political parties like to use CBI as a political tool. The infamous Hawala case may have given the central vigilance commission (CVC) supervisory powers over the CBI, but that has failed to make any difference. Poor selection of CVC officials and their poorly defined powers have ensured that the CBI continues to act as handmaiden of the government.

The government has agreed to hand over the prosecution wing to the proposed Lokpal, but its role and powers are so badly framed that this change would make little difference.

Sodhi would like to have prosecution as an independent body headed by the topmost law officer of the land (attorney general), as is the case in the US, and answerable to parliament.

The mechanism may be debatable what is not is that unless there is independence, transparency and accountability, in both investigation and prosecution, the fight we will have more AK Singhs hitting the headlines.

Interestingly, just as poor accountability bedevils our investigation and prosecution, so is the case with our intelligence gathering. Not only our premier intelligence bodies like R&AW, IB and NTRO are not accountable to anybody, other than the political masters of the day, they don’t even have a legal status or law to govern their functioning. Hours before the news broke about the CBI prosecutor’s collusion with the accused, the supreme court had issued a notice to the government to explain how the intelligence agencies were working in a legal vacuum.




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