Rewind to 2013 when Justice RM Lodha called the CBI “its master’s voice” and a “caged parrot”. Fast forward to 2018, the “caged parrot” has lost even its cage and credibility which has touched its nadir-its two top officers relieved of their services and the interim director divested of powers to take policy decisions. Unfortunate is a small word to describe what is going on in the premier investigating agency of the country. Its top officials are leveling bribery charges and counter charges against each other. The CBI has booked Special Director Rakesh Asthana for accepting bribe from an accused probed by him. The FIR was filed against Asthana almost two months after he had shot off a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, accusing his boss, CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, of indulging in a series of corruption acts. The Central Vigilance Commission that exercises superintendence over the functioning of the CBI for investigation of offences related to the prevention of corruption is probing the charges.
The midnight action-replacing of Alok Verma as CBI Director (though his term is protected by law), divesting both Verma and Asthana of their powers, new acting director, M. Nageswara Rao transferring 13 officers raises many questions. Section 4B of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act assures a two-year tenure for the CBI Director and he cannot be transferred except by a high-power committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. The CBI’s ball is now with the Supreme Court and it is Apex Court’s second major intervention in the working of the premier investigating agency. It has done well to order a time-bound and monitored inquiry by a former Supreme Court Judge A.K. Patnaik. The court has asked the interim Director to confine himself to routine tasks to keep the agency’s work going and has sought the details in a sealed cover. Judicial intervention was indeed called for in such a surcharged atmosphere as reports suggested that four men from the IB were caught by Verma’s security staff on suspicion of mounting surveillance on him. There is a big rot at the very heart of the CBI. The present case was preceded by allegations against former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha of helping the accused in several cases and he was asked to keep away from the 2G scam. Similarly, A.P. Singh, another director, was booked last year for alleged links with meat exporter Moin Qureshi and Tehelka published messages exchanged over the phone between the two. The public expects highest standard from the premier investigation agency of the country. Its glory must be restored. The Narendra Modi government has the opportunity to take steps to improve CBI’s efficiency and integrity.