The premier investigating agency of India seems to be acquiring a certain measure of freedom, after all. The Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will now be free to appoint consultants and employ people on contract. He can now approve projects worth Rs 15 crore in a year. He And he gets the rank of Secretary to the Government of India, and will, in effect, now be allowed to handle India’s premier investigating agency autonomously. Why is everyone not cheering? For one, he will not be totally autonomous, and overall, the reforms fall short of the demands made by activists and opposition leaders.
The CBI has demanded many times that it be allowed to function freely. Even as the demand fell on deaf ears for many years, recently the Opposition became shrill in demanding a fixed term for the Director. It has also suggested that the CBI be bifurcated into two wings, one which would look after prosecution while the other should handle investigations. The CBI is held in high esteem by the public, more so since it is seen as an independent agency which is not susceptible to the kinds of pulls and pressures that the police forces face from various state governments. However, the CBI, too, has come under criticism for being selective in its investigation and prosecution, and being susceptible to the Central Government’s pressure.
The CBI has been given more powers, even some degree of autonomy. Now, it can handle some of the administrative matters like small purchases and even some transfers and postings without having a junior official looking over its shoulders. However, we must remember that this has been because of the political and judicial pressure. The organization now needs to demonstrate how this autonomy will help it do its job properly. Far too many cases have languished even after the CBI started investigating these. Wrapping up cases and taking these to their logical end will help it justify the faith that the common people repose in India’s most respected investigating agency.