Amit Shah verdict exposes CBI

If the discharge of BJP president Amit Shah by a Mumbai special court in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh   fake encounter case was categorical, the court’s indictment of the CBI, which investigated the case, was equally emphatic.

The BJP and Shah may be relieved by the court’s order, but the dismissal of the case and the comments of the judge have dealt another blow to the CBI’s standing.

The court said that the case was politically motivated, and it means the CBI had framed Amit Shah at the bidding of the then UPA government. It also felt that the facts collected by the agency against Shah were not enough to indict him.

Shah was Gujarat’s home minister when the encounter took place and the charge was that the killing of Sheikh was done at the behest of Shah. The case, which was investigated for many years, was also considered a proxy case against the state’s then chief minister Narendra Modi, as Shah is known to be close to Modi.

If the CBI dealt with the case in opposite ways in different political situations, it is again a clear illustration of the Supreme Court’s comment that it is a “caged parrot’’. The possibilities are that the CBI may have proceeded against Shah because the UPA government wanted it to, but that it may have gone slow on the case after it went out of power. Either way, the investigating agency’s credibility is badly hit.

The special court judge, the prosecutor and the investigating officer were changed after the new government came to power. There is also the charge that the CBI lawyer did not effectively defend the agency’s case in the court. It has also been pointed out that the facts which were dismissed as insubstantial by the court had led the Supreme Court to order externment of Shah from Gujarat during the time of investigation.

While the merits of the case will again be scrutinised and decided in higher courts, where Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s relatives have decided to appeal the ruling, what is worrying is that the reforms made in the CBI in the recent past have not improved its functioning. If it is open to pressures in politically sensitive cases at all stages of investigation, it is vulnerable in all cases.

In fact, most cases of public importance tend to have a political dimension also these days. If the nation’s premier investigating agency loses the confidence of the people, there will be questions about the system of justice as such, because the police and the judiciary are the main elements of that system.

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