India court asks central government to bring separate law for premier investigating agency News
© Wikimedia (Pulakit Singh)
India court asks central government to bring separate law for premier investigating agency

The Madras high court issued an order Tuesday directing the central government to consider enacting separate legislation providing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a statutory status.

The CBI, India’s premier investigative agency, was established through an executive order under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. It comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training under the Prime Minister’s Office. Over the years, most leading parties, including the BJP and Congress, have accused the government of controlling the CBI against the opposition.

In 2013, the Supreme Court questioned CBI’s investigative credibility, stating that the agency is “a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice.” Thus, the Madras high court described its order as “an attempt to release the caged parrot (CBI).” The order came in response to a petition seeking a CBI inquiry into a chit fund scam. Although the court refused to refer the case to the CBI, it gave the central government some crucial directions with respect to the elite agency’s autonomy.

The court remarked that whenever a request for a CBI inquiry is made, the CBI often declines it citing inadequate resources and workforce. Therefore, additional resources and workforce are required to investigate more cases. Since the CBI’s jurisdiction is confined to Delhi and Union Territories, it cannot operate in other states unless the concerned state government’s consent is obtained which tends to cause more administrative delay and tussle over jurisdiction with the local police. Thus, the court ordered for expansion of the agency’s jurisdiction.

Further, the court observed that “the CBI should have an autonomy as that of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who is only accountable to Parliament.” This autonomy can be ensured only if the CBI is given statutory status.  The court also directed the creation of a separate budgetary allocation for the CBI, independent of the government’s administrative control. Further, it recommended that the CBI’s director should be given ex-officio powers of the Secretary to the Indian government, who reports to the Prime Minister directly.

In 2013, the Gauhati High Court held that the CBI’s establishment is unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court stayed the high court’s order. The case concerning the CBI’s constitutionality is still pending before the Supreme Court.