Efforts Must Be Made To Delink Crucial Aspects Of CBI From Control Of Govt. To Ensure It's Administrative Autonomy : CJI [Read Full Text Of Speech]

Efforts Must Be Made To Delink Crucial Aspects Of CBI From Control Of Govt. To Ensure It

"True, in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny. Equally true it is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently. Such instances reflect systemic issues and indicate a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture, and governing politics"

CJI Ranjan Gogoi has delivered the 18th edition of DP Kohli memorial lecture yesterday, held at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi. This annual lecture was instituted in the memory of CBI's founder late Sh. Dharamnath Prasad Kohli.

During the lecture, CJI Gogoi emphasized on the importance of public faith in institutions such as CBI, and expressed his concern over its institutional and governance lapses in the recent past.

"Past governance crisis in our country have shown us that current crisis in our public institutions present as much of an opportunity for improvement as they pose a threat for the future", he said.

Citing the 154th Report of the Law Commission on the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, he laid stress upon the crucial role that investigating agencies play in ensuring propagation of justice in the manner as provided in our Constitution. He said straight from the shoulder that,

"True, in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny. Equally true it is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently. Such instances reflect systemic issues and indicate a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture, and governing politics"

The CJI addressed "crucial concerns" over CBI under the following sub-heads:

  1. Legal Ambiguity, wherein he drew the audience's attention to the statutory oversight responsible for the failures of CBI. "…under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946, for conduct or continuance of investigation into offences committed with the territory of a state, consent of the state is crucial. Given vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy, such consent is often either denied or delayed, severely compromising the investigation", he said.
  2. Charging responsibility over weak human resource in the organisation, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, he said "this is a matter of concern as it results in overburdening of work which not only reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency personnel but also induce psychological distress. Potential ramifications may compromise both the quality of investigations and the policy design, formulation and implementation efforts".
  3. He called attention to the importance of quality research and training for maintaining an effective modern police force and said "Inadequate investment in personal, training, equipment or other support structures, adversely hampers professional discharge of duties."
  4. Accountability of an institution is also very important in determining its success chart and the CJI focused on the "need to maintain morale of the force by enforcing stringent internal accountability, concerning all aspects of the working of the institution – decision making, procedure adopted, finance, performance evaluation, etc."
  5. He highlighted Political and administrative interference in the working of CBI as a major impediment in the growth and delivery of the institution. "Why is that whenever there are no political overtones to the case, the CBI does a good job", he wondered. Emphasizing on the statutory lapse in this regard, he said "…given that the superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946, the possibility of it being used as a political instrument remains ever present".
  6. 6. In terms of judicial efforts to resuscitate CBI's independence and integrity, he cited various judicial pronouncements and extensive guidelines that aimed to preserve the same. "The court on numerous occasions reiterated that the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police force had to be only to the Rule of Law. The supervision and control had to be such that it ensured that the police and the agency served the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures", he added.

But he had no doubt that there was more than enough strength within the organization to deal with any such situation. In an effort to lay down a road map for future, the CJI said that for a positive bearing on the functioning of CBI, "any attempt of reform must adopt a systematic and holistic approach driving the institution from unbridled discretion to public reason, secrecy to information, and opacity to accountability".

He spoke about the importance of technological advancement of the institution "through adoption of newer technologies including use of Artificial Intelligence …need for systematized training for investigating officers in scientific methods of investigation".

Taking on to the issue of understaffing, he said "Proactive steps, therefore, must be taken to fill the vacancies, simplify the service rules, reduce procedural bottlenecks afflicting recruitment and make deputation to CBI more rewarding."

Adding to the proposition of enhancing effectiveness he said, "to truly transform into a multidisciplinary crime investigation force, it must also invite within its fold experts from diverse fields such as finance, banking, procurement, insurance, engineering, etc. Inputs from experts drawn from diverse disciplines will empower the agency with crucial domain knowledge to proficiently meet current and future challenges".

To ensure administrative autonomy, "efforts must be made to delink crucial aspects of the CBI from the overall administrative control of the government", he said. Further, to deal with the problem of increasing incidence of interstate crimes, Gogoi suggested an amendment to the Constitution could be used "for including 'public order' in the concurrent list, for the limited purposes of investigating such [interstate] crimes"
However, "administrative autonomy without financial autonomy makes for a toothless tiger", the CJI remarked. Nonetheless, "increased autonomy must be accompanied by enhanced accountability…both internal and external", he added.

Lastly, he said it was "important to acknowledge the remarkable work done by CBI over the years. It could not have been possible without the quality, calibre, commitment and professionalism of its personals".

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