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Madras HC calls for overhaul of ‘caged parrot’ CBI, asks Centre to make it autonomous like CAG

Issuing 12 directions that give CBI independence and bring in changes in terms of manpower & resources, Madras High Court says agency must be brought on par with FBI, Scotland Yard.

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New Delhi: “This order is an attempt to release the ‘caged parrot’,” said the Madras High Court Tuesday as it issued 12 directions for a complete overhaul of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to give it more autonomy and independence.

The Supreme Court had first called the CBI a “caged parrot” back in 2013 during the hearing of the coal field allocation cases. This was amidst repeated accusations from the BJP-led opposition at the time that the Congress-led government was controlling the CBI.

A bench comprising Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalendhi now asserted that the “facilities in the premier agency have to be enhanced, so that it could be equated, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of United States of America and Scotland Yard of United Kingdom.”

Among other things, the high court has directed the Centre to take a decision on making a separate Act giving statutory status with more powers and jurisdiction to the CBI at the earliest. This is in view of the fact that the Gauhati High Court had held the constitution of the CBI to be unconstitutional back in November 2013. An appeal against this decision is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

“CBI shall be made more independent like Election Commission of India and Comptroller and Auditor General of India,” the court further asserted, pointing out that the CAG is only accountable to the Parliament.

It also directed that the CBI should have a separate budgetary allocation, and said that the Centre “shall make CBI independent with functional autonomy without administrative control of the Government”.

The court further ordered that the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) “shall have more modern facilities and should be augmented on par” with facilities available to the FBI and Scotland Yard.

The observations were made on a petition seeking transfer of an alleged Rs 300 crore chit fund scam involving a Ramanathapuram-based company called Bullion Fintech LLP. However, the Centre had opposed the transfer of the case to the CBI on the ground of lack of manpower and resources.

Also read: How CBI went from being a caged parrot to a wild vulture

Need to increase manpower, resources

Emphasising on the need to increase the CBI’s manpower and resources, the court in its judgment observed: “Though very sensitive and complicated cases are being investigated or handled, the number of cases handled by CBI is just equivalent or less than the case handled by a single police station in the country. Therefore, the CBI has to take up more cases by increasing its manpower and other resources.”

It therefore directed the CBI Director to send a detailed proposal seeking further increase in the divisions/wings as well as strength of officers in the CBI to the Centre within a period of six weeks, and the Centre has been asked to pass orders on this within a period of three months after it receives this proposal.

The high court has also ordered that the CBI director should be given the same powers as that of a secretary to the government, and shall report directly to the minister/prime minister without going through the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

It further said that the officials and staff for CBI should be independently recruited and given proper training in the CBI academy as well as in foreign countries if necessary.

Also read: Relieve IPS officers on time, groom second-in-command — DoPT advises CBI against extensions

Take call on CBI restructuring within 6 weeks

In the same case, the court had on 8 December last year refused to transfer the case to the CBI, but raised 15 queries on resources, manpower, investigation skills and infrastructural facilities available to the investigative agency.

Based on the CBI’s response to the queries, the court had noted that the agency has “very limited man power available”, with 7,273 officials as on 14 December 2020. The court was also informed that a proposal dated 9 September 2020 for a comprehensive cadre review, restructuring of the CBI and for creation of 734 additional posts in different ranks is pending with the central government.

The DoPT was therefore on Tuesday directed  to pass orders on the 9 September proposal after consulting with other departments if necessary, within a period of six weeks.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: 7 top central agencies are ‘headless’ and functioning under acting chiefs


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