Recent events concerning the CBI make it clear that a determined government will have its way, and that there is nothing sacrosanct about giving the director of the premier investigating agency a protected two-year term in order to shield the office-holder from governmental interference.
Alok Verma, the last CBI chief who showed signs of independence, was not just pushed out before his term ended in the face of dissent by the Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge, and in spite of the recorded remarks of retired Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik that the material on record against Mr Verma did not add up to “corruption”, with which the government sought to taint him — but is also being sought to be penalised, with the government contemplating depriving him of his pension.
The message is that governments desire that the CBI be their “caged parrot”. This diminishes the agency as it is made to play dirty with opponents of the rulers.
In the circumstances, the appointment of former Madhya Pradesh DGP Rishi Kumar Shukla as the new CBI chief on Saturday does not raise our confidence in the impartial functioning of the CBI. Mr Shukla is apparently a fine officer even if he does not have adequate experience of investigating corruption cases, as Mr Kharge insists. But so was Mr Verma, apparently.
The real problem then is of having safeguards. Governments should not be able to dictate to the CBI, and the CBI — with autonomy — must in no way have the liberty to become a law unto itself, and convert India into a police state. This is the conundrum to be cracked....