A civilised society is one in which the State ensures effective control over law and order, corruption and shields people by ensuring that equality and justice prevail. In India, just like the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary, different investigative agencies also have been given varied functions and responsibilities so that they are not in conflict with each other while discharging their duties. But the harsh reality is that since the inception of central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and Narcotics Control Bureau, their role has been subject to the government in power instead of being autonomous.
The issue of central agencies has reared up again after the Enforcement Directorate summoned the Gandhis for questioning in the National Herald case. In the history of democratic India, this is not the first time when the authority of the central agencies has become a matter of debate. It is an unspoken rule that the ruling political party guide their actions and uses them to make sure that their personal motives are accomplished.
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Abuse of power
There have been several instances indicating that power has been misused for personal motives. The authority of CBI was questioned while investigating the Bofors scandal where the FIR was delayed and the investigation had several twists, and in 2011 the case was closed.
Few months back, Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau in a drug case, and several allegations made against him. But later NCB gave him a clean chit. The Enforcement Directorate last month arrested the former health minister of Delhi, Satyendra Jain, in connection to a money laundering case, which is still under the enquiry. Enforcement Directorate is also carrying out an investigation against Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and has attached his close aide’s property. DK Shivakumar and his associates were booked by the Enforcement Directorate for suspicious proceedings through shell companies. Income tax raids were also carried out on Madhya Pradesh CM’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and his close aides, just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Though these operations are not new and have been in practice since independence, they have increased considerably in the past few years.
The investigative agencies are entitled to probe and investigate, but why have cases been registered only against the parties in Opposition? Parties in power are not questioned. Does that mean whichever party comes to power becomes the pillar of honesty? Impartiality has to be ensured by the agencies because they owe their allegiance to the rule of law and Constitution, and not to those in power. Agencies are instilling the value of fear and apprehension against those who criticise the government and challenge their policies.
In a healthy democracy, the Opposition has the role of questioning and criticising the government. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It’s easy to stand in the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone”. If the Opposition is forced to back off, who will question the policies or laws made by the government? The actions by the central agencies will be detrimental for the idea of a healthy democracy. CJI NV Ramana, while addressing a gathering, remarked, “Political executive will change with time, but you as an institution are permanent. Be impermeable and be independent”. Justice JS Verma, who chaired the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, also stressed on a transparent and autonomous CBI.
The actions of the agencies also defame those who are innocent. Even if such people walk out free, society still views them with suspicion. We must realise the utmost importance of free and independent central agencies. They have been given very precious duties and tasks, and enjoy certain privileges over rest of the agencies. But they should remember to use them for the nation’s progress. I believe that if they are not subjected to political pressure or interference then they can ensure positive changes in the society.
The author is a student at Institution For Excellence In Higher Education, Bhopal. Views are personal