How to make CBI truly independent

Independent law wing can be a good beginning


Pankaj Kumar | May 1, 2013

The supreme court has called for making the CBI truly independent after its chief confessed to sharing a probe report with the law minister and others. A noble objective indeed, even if it is as difficult as removing poverty. A beginning, however, can be made by allowing CBI to have a panel of lawyers independent of the government.

Law officers are currently appointed by the law ministry, and they owe allegiance to it. No wonder it often leads them to interfering into the investigation at the instance of their political masters.

According to the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, BJP had submitted a note to this effect to the parliamentary select committee on CBI. "In our recommendation, we had suggested that the panel of lawyers who appear and advise the government must be independent. They must be appointed by the director of prosecution in consultation with the Lokpal," he said in his blog [], adding that "the select committee diluted our suggestions" and the cabinet further diluted the recommendations of the select committee.

He said the government's political management in sensitive cases was being done through the offices of the law officers and the stature and dignity of the law officers had been gradually eroded and compromised.

CPM leader Sitram Yechuri concurred with Jaitley saying CBI should have an independent panel of lawyers. He said the law officers were essentially political appointees of the government and wondered how political appointees could represent CBI.

"CBI is always accused of foul play but what power has it been given by the government? CBI can't even decide about which lawyer to engage and how much money needs to be paid to him. It is all decided by the officials of the law ministry," Joginder Singh, former director of the agency, told Governance Now.

RS Sodhi, a former high court judge and distinguished lawyer in the supreme court, too shares the view. He says, “It is ironical that prosecution and investigation goes in different directions because they are not under one head. There is always a communication gap, so the accused go scot-free. America has worked wonderfully because their prosecution and investigation work under one head."

The suggestion makes sense. In June 2003, CBI got the bank accounts of Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrochi and his wife frozen. But in 2005, additional solicitor general B Dutta went to a London court with a request to unfreeze the accounts – without even consulting the investigating agency.

"Most law officers are being appointed by the government including attorney general so they don't behave as law officer of the country to support the prosecution -- instead they interfere with the investigation to influence CBI to suit the demands of their appointee. This practice must be stopped for independent functioning of CBI," says Abani Sahu, a supreme court lawyer.

Meenakshi Lekhi, a spokesperson of BJP and lawyer in supreme court, has a bit different view on the independent functioning of CBI. "Even FBI works under the government but that is not used as political tool. Here the bigger question is the morality of the ruling class that is interfering in the process of investigation," she says.




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