B. S. RAGHAVAN
November 24, 2011:
Iam probably the only surviving official who had actually worked with the Founder-Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mr D. P. Kohli, as the Deputy Secretary in charge of the Administrative Vigilance Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963.
Both he and I assisted the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption in 1966-68 and many of its recommendations were hammered out by the then Home Secretary, L. P. Singh, D. P. Kohli and myself. Mr Kohli was also a member of the L. P. Singh Committee (of which I was the Member-Secretary) during 1977-78 to process the recommendations of the Commission on Emergency Excesses headed by the former Supreme Court Chief Justice J. C. Shah.
I have been interested in the performance of the CBI in my other capacities as well during a long service life. So, my views expressed in this column are a result of a professional and dispassionate appraisal of the role of the CBI and the Lokpal.
Let me start off with a basic fact. There can be no question that the CBI has suffered a grievous loss of its credibility in the period following the Emergency 1975-77.
The Shah Commission has given in horrific detail the manner in which it allowed itself to be misused to the extent of ruining the careers and lives of officials while pursuing the vendetta politics of Sanjay Gandhi.
That was why the L. P. Singh Committee in its report (which was buried without a trace by Indira Gandhi when she returned to power in 1980) had asked for a separate parliamentary enactment which would put the CBI out of the clutches of the political party or combine running the government of the day and under an independent oversight body of eminent persons.
The L. P. Singh Committee which comprised, mark you, two legendary police officials, D. P. Kohli and M. M. L. Hoojah, the world renowned Director of the Intelligence Bureau, was of the firm opinion that one of the reasons why the agency could easily be manipulated was that it was headed by a police official, accustomed to life-long subservience to the powers that be.
It wanted the system of having only a police official as its head to be given up and that it should have as its head the best person for the job from whichever walk of life.
The National Police Commission of which the former Cabinet Secretary, and Governor of West Bengal, Dharam Vira, was the chairman, and another legendary police official, Mr C. V. Narasimhan, was the Member-Secretary, also recommended the formation of National and State Security Commissions entrusted with the task of supervising the functioning of the CBI so as to pre-empt its being subverted into the plaything of predatory politics.
If anything, the image of the CBI has seen a precipitous nosedive in recent years. It has had to swallow strictures galore all the way —from trial courts to the Supreme Court about the way it had tailored investigations to suit political whims.
Eventually, the Supreme Court had to lay down a command-control formula, placing it under the supervision of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner in respect of government officials for insulating it from political machinations.
Rightly or wrongly, the CBI today has lost the trust of the people at large.
For the Lokpal to refer the complaints received by it to the same CBI is to subject the new institution to a severe handicap as regards credibility and effectiveness.
An arrangement whereby the anti-corruption division of the CBI will be tagged on to it will blur the relentless focus on bringing down within a foreseeable future the scale and magnitude of corruption, especially at high levels.
The Lokpal will never be able to enforce its authority and will stand discredited in the bargain. At the same time, for the Lokpal to establish the paraphernalia of an investigation machinery of its own will be a waste of resources.
The best thing would be to hive off the CBI’s anti-corruption wing and bring it under the direction, control supervision of Lokpal, after some restructuring and reorientation to bring about a change in the attitude and approach of the personnel by getting rid of toadies and opportunists.