When the Union Cabinet meets today to discuss the much spoken about Lokpal Bill, the big question before it would be the Central Bureau of Investigation. At the moment it appears that the Government would skirt this issue by quoting the famous Vineet Narain verdict of the Supreme Court of India which has set guidelines on altering the nature of the CBI and also its functions.
While the draft is expected to suggest that the Lokpal may have its own investigating wing, former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Joginder Singh goes on to state it would be meaningless to include the CBI into the ambit of the Lokpal.
CBI has an anti corruption wing alright, but then it does have other functions too, Singh points out. There is no point in handing over the CBI to the Lokpal and segregating one of its wings (anti corruption) would only create more confusion. Apart from anti corruption, the CBI deals with cases pertaining to the Interpol and also other crime related issues. Hence it is one body and cannot be separated. In addition to this the CBI also does work assigned to it by state governments and hence putting any wing of it under the Lokpal would cause problems for the agency.
The alternate to this issue is to create a Lokpal Bureau of Investigation which would probe cases which are filed with the Lokpal. They may have difficulties at first and there would be the issue of expertise in such cases. In such an event they would always utilise the services of some of the CBI officials who have been handling such cases and also rope in some of the officers from the CBI’s anti corruption wing.
However setting up a separate investigating bureau of the Lokpal is no easy job. The staff strength is what matters a lot here and in my view they would need 1000 investigators and 300 prosecutors.
While this agency would do good for the nation, I do not think that the anti corruption wing of the CBI has to be shut down entirely. There are cases of murder which the CBI probes which are connected to corruption or have a money trail and in such an event an anti corruption wing of the CBI has to remain in existence.
The more important aspect is to have a proper segregation of the two units as it could always lead up to a rift which ultimately would not serve the purpose.
Regarding the talk that the CBI is always a government controlled body, Singh points out that the CBI ought to be given a constitutional status. Yes, under the government it does get controlled a great deal. However I do not think it should be an independent body as it could be fatal due to the super power that it would enjoy. A constitutional status on the lines of the Election Commission of India would be ideal.
There is a dire need to root out corruption in India and we need a strong and independent body. The CBI has to deal with very important cases and apart from creating a new wing under the Lokpal, the government should also think of strengthening the CBI. The CBI is short staffed and no one seems to care. Even if the new lokpal wing is created it would not reduce any burden of the CBI as it remains understaffed, the former CBI director also points out.