Misuse of CBI must stop

It cannot be denied that the decision of the governments of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal to withdraw the “general consent’’ given to the CBI for operations in the two states has a political dimension. The chief ministers of the two states, Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee, have said that they have deep distrust in the CBI which, they fear, may be used by the central government against them in the coming weeks before the general elections. The CBI, which functions under the central government, needs permission from state governments to investigate offences in states. This is in accordance with the salutary federal principle which limits the powers of the central government in dealing with issues related to crime and law and order, which fall within the purview of the states. The general consent was based on the existence of trust between the Centre and the states. Now that this has been withdrawn, the CBI will need specific permission from the two states to investigate individual cases.

AP withdrew the general consent as it suspected that the Centre was planning CBI raids on leaders of the state government and the Telugu Desam Party. It has a special reason for this apprehension because Chandrababu Naidu has taken the initiative to forge an alliance of parties to fight the BJP in the next elections. Mamata Banerjee has felt that “instructions are being sent to CBI from the BJP office’’. Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar’s premises were raided after he hosted Congress MLAs from Gujarat before the 2017 Rajya Sabha elections there. It is well-known that the CBI is used to put pressure on opposition leaders, to harass them and to punish them. Many others are sought to be brought into submission by threats of CBI action. 

All governments have used the CBI as their handmaiden, inviting the Supreme Court’s well-known description that it is a “caged parrot’’. Neither the Supreme Court’s efforts nor public opinion has been able to ensure that the CBI gets disassociated from politics and the interests of the government of the day. The situation has steadily deteriorated and now the misuse is most brazen and blatant. Some recent unprecedented developments in the agency, which are before the Supreme Court now, are further proof of that. Naidu is also planning to approach the Supreme Court to curb the powers of the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate before the elections. It is unfortunate that national agencies and institutions are put to partisan and political use. When that happens the response from those who are targeted also tends to become political. Caught in the crossfire, the authority and credibility of these institutions suffer, as it is happening now. 

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Misuse of CBI must stop


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